MLSD still looking for auto tech program site

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Charles H. Featherstone/Columbia Basin Herald Work continues on BBCC’s new Workforce Education Building. The old building, which currently houses the Moses Lake School District’s automotive tech program, will be torn down once the new building is completed, likely in late summer.

MOSES LAKE — The Moses Lake School District’s auto tech program is still looking for a home.

According to Eric Johnson, the district’s executive director of business and operations, district officials have been looking at possible options — including the district’s old transportation facility on Ivy Street south of Midway Elementary — but hasn’t found anything that would be an exact fit yet.

“We have found larger space that is unaffordable, and smaller space,” Johnson told members of the school board at a regular meeting last Thursday.

Johnson said the district is going ahead with preliminary engineering work on the transportation facility to see what would need to be done to convert that space into temporary classrooms and shop space for the auto tech programs at Moses Lake High School and the Columbia Basin Technical Skills Center.

“We’re looking at that space, and the upgrades and costs associated with making that a safe shop space,” Johnson said.

“We are still continuing to look for other real estate options, but we have not found other options at this time,” he added.

The district needs to find a new home for auto tech by the end of August, which is when Big Bend Community College is expected to complete its new Workforce Education Building. Because of the way the new building is funded, BBCC is required to demolish the old buildings, one of which the MLSD leases for its auto tech programs. However, CB Tech auto instructor Rich Archer told school board members he was worried that the old transportation building would not be big enough to hold the 100 or so MLHS and CB Tech students who study auto mechanics and repair.

“I’m a little concerned about putting students in too small a space,” Archer said. “We have all kinds of stuff that I can’t see fitting in that tiny building and having 40 kids stand around.”

“We love our kids, we don’t want them to get hurt,” he added. “We want to train them, to make them smart.”

Superintendent Josh Meek said the auto program is a popular one the district wants to continue with, but noted that the state of Washington “has 77,000 opinions” on how to repurpose space for school use.

“This is a challenging project and there are not a lot of great options,” Meek said.

More than a year ago, the district asked for funding from the state for the second phase of the CB Tech project, and that includes “some auto programming,” Meek said. But even if that request were approved today, it still wouldn’t solve the immediate problem of needing new space for an auto program by late summer.

In a related note, the MLSD is also listing for sale three properties it owns on Ivy Street. Meek said the district is getting ready to sell its current district headquarters building at 920 W. Ivy (with an assessed value of $726,175, according to the Grant County Assessor’s website) and support offices at 1000 W. Ivy (assessed value of $252,505) and 1020 W. Ivy (assessed value of $89,580).

The MLSD is currently refurbishing its new district office building at 1620 S. Pioneer Way.

Charles H. Featherstone can be reached via email at cfeatherstone@columbiabasinherald.com.

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