February 18, 2010 in Washington Voices

Districts prepare to build

Voters approved bonds in Cheney, Medical Lake for new, expanded schools
By The Spokesman-Review
Rendering by NAC Architecure photo

This artist’s rendering shows the new middle school next to the existing location of Cheney Middle School. Clockwise from left are the transportation and maintenance complexes; the LDS Church; existing fields; and the future Simpson Parkway (top right).Rendering by NAC Architecure
(Full-size photo)

Plans to build new schools or add new classrooms are moving ahead on the West Plains.

It’s a busy time for the school districts after voters approved bonds in Cheney and Medical Lake. School boards will be looking at designs, school colors and boundary lines.

In the Cheney school district, voters passed a $79 million bond for two new middle schools and one new elementary school. With some previous measures scheduled to sunset in 2010, the district said it should be able to get the schools built without raising taxes.

The district’s current middle school has a capacity of 700 students, but growth in the West Plains has sent more than 900 students to Cheney Middle School. The district said the building would not be a good candidate for expansion, thanks to its very thin concrete walls, the HVAC is failing and wiring the school for new technology has been challenging – many of the wires run along the ceiling and underneath pipes that are leaking.

One of the new middle schools will be built on the same property as the current middle school for around $37 million. Another middle school will be built on the east side of the district near Windsor Elementary School, 5504 W. Hallett Road, for the same price. The district expects the state to provide $18 million in matching funds to complete a new elementary school also on the east side of the district.

“We really, as an organization, have worked hard,” said Superintendent Larry Keller.

Now that the bond has passed – as of Tuesday, the measure was passing with 65.37 percent of the votes – Keller said the district has to start moving forward with approving designs and boundaries.

“The community has given us $79 million to support our vision and now we’ve got to go do this,” Keller said.

Keller hopes to break ground on the middle schools in March or April 2011. The two schools will be built at the same time and will be similar in design. The district wants the schools to be equal in design and amenities. The superintendent said he wants to be clear that they are closing a middle school and opening two new ones.

It is hoped they will both open in the fall of 2012.

The district will also need to name the schools. He said he’s not sure if the new building at the old middle school site will be called Cheney Middle School or if it will be called something else. There are also decisions to be made about mascots and school colors.

Keller said the district plans to be transparent when it comes to making the big decisions with the projects. He wants to get the community involved and the school board will have the final approval during its public meetings.

In the Medical Lake school district, voters approved a $15.6 million bond. The money will be used to demolish the current Medical Lake Elementary, add six classrooms to Hallett Elementary to serve students in preschool through fifth grade, and add 12 classrooms, a gymnasium and common area to Medical Lake Middle School for students in the sixth through eighth grades.

The district plans to turn the property at Medical Lake Elementary into playfields.

This was the third time the district floated a bond measure to the voters to solve the problems of Medical Lake Elementary, which has electrical problems, leaky faucets and no fire suppression system. Bonds were rejected in 2004 and 2008.

As of Tuesday, the measure had 62.29 percent approval.

Pam Veltri, superintendent of Medical Lake Schools, said now that the bond has passed the school board will need to select an architect and prepare bids.

She hopes construction on the projects will begin in August and if next winter’s weather cooperates, students could move into their newly remodeled schools by September of 2011.

“It’s a project that we think, realistically, we could do that,” Veltri said.

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