Othello School District voters to consider construction bond

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OTHELLO — It’s official – Othello School District patrons will be asked to accept or reject a school construction bond in February. Othello School Board members approved the bond resolution during the regular board meeting Monday. The vote was 4-0.

Brian Bodah, the executive director of business services, laid out the details. The total bond proposal is $61.4 million. If the bond is approved, the money would pay for a new elementary school, a second middle school and extensive remodeling and expansion at Othello High School. The project does not include an athletic complex.

If the bond is approved, the estimated property tax assessment rate would be 96 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value. If the levy is approved, the owner of property valued at $200,000 would pay an additional $192 per year.

The bond has a 21-year payback provision, Bodah said, the maximum allowed by state law.

It’s one bond, but the projects – and the bond sales – would be split into two parts. The first phase would be the new middle school and elementary school, to be built on district-owned property at the intersection of 14th Street and Lee Road. The elementary school-middle school project would include an auditorium that would seat about 400.

While both buildings would be on the same property and share some common space, they would have separate schedules, said district superintendent Chris Hurst in an earlier interview.

The second phase would be expansion and renovation at OHS. The high school would be expanded to house 1,500 students, up from the current 1,000 students. The project would include new classrooms, another gym, and extensive renovation to the existing building. The expanded high school would include a 1,500-seat auditorium.

The new elementary and middle schools would house about 700 kids. But since the design process doesn’t start until the bond passes, it’s still to be determined how many kids would be in the new grade school and how many in the new middle school.

Total project cost for both phases would be $76.3 million. The district is eligible for state school construction funds; Bodah said it’s estimated Othello would receive about $4 million for the elementary school-middle school. The district also would be eligible for a grant, about $2.2 million, to help reduce class sizes for kindergarten through third grade. The high school project would be eligible for about $8.7 million.

Board member Rob Simmons said Othello had about 3,000 students when district voters approved a bond in 2007. Average enrollment for the 2017-18 school year to date has been the equivalent of 4,357 kids, Hurst said. The projected enrollment for 2018-19 is the equivalent of 4,498 kids. “That’s huge growth,” Simmons said.

Cheryl Schweizer can be reached via email at education@columbiabasinherald.com.

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