Othello school facility committee makes recommendation

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Cheryl Schweizer/Columbia Basin Herald Othello School District facility committee chair Ryan Frazier detailed the committee’s conclusions at the Othello School Board Wednesday.

OTHELLO — Gyms, classrooms, a separate spot for preschool and additional food storage were among the recommendations of a committee tasked with looking for ways to address space needs in the Othello School District. The committee made its recommendation to the Othello School Board at the regular meeting Wednesday.

Board members scheduled a workshop for 6 p.m. Jan. 7 to discuss the committee’s recommendations.

Committee chair Ryan Frazier presented the conclusions. He said the recommendations would work if the district decided on the K-8 conversion, or left the elementary schools in their current configuration of kindergarten through sixth grade.

The first option included gymnasiums at Lutacaga, Hiawatha and Scootney Springs elementaries, a separate space for all the district’s preschool classes and extensive remodeling at Othello High School, with the goal of 21 revamped (or new) classrooms. “We found that the 200 and 600 wings (at OHS) were a little bit underperforming. There’s a lot of issues that go on with those buildings.”

The first option also includes a central warehouse for the district’s food program, along with additional food storage at Desert Oasis High School and the three elementaries. The committee recommended 24 additional elementary school classrooms, four at each existing elementary, and additional classrooms at the middle school if the preschool program remains in that building. The recommendation also included adding two locker rooms at OHS.

Estimated project cost was $30 million, but Frazier cautioned that didn’t include separate preschool space. The estimate did include costs associated with construction but that are not actual construction, called “soft costs.”

Frazier called the second option the “perfect dream list. In a perfect world, if you have the money, we would like to see that.”

The second option includes everything recommended in the first option, along with multipurpose rooms at the four elementaries, a 1,500-seat auditorium and a third gym at OHS, music rooms and PE changing rooms at the elementary schools, a staff lounge at Hiawatha Elementary and a conference room at Wahitis. The additional OHS gym would include the locker rooms.

Estimated project cost was $53 million. Committee member Dave Spencer said the facility committee wasn’t really asked to consider the financial end – their job was to identify the needs and come up with a cost estimate.

The committee was formed in August and asked to come up with two recommendations to meet space challenges in the district. Earlier this year district officials announced a plan to convert the district’s four elementary schools and McFarland Middle School to kindergarten through eighth grade, and commissioned a cost estimate. The bill was an estimated $32 million, not including any provisions for growth.

That prompted school board members to form the facility committee to look at space needs over the next five years.

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