Jefferson Elementary School has been sitting the corner of South Grand Boulevard and West 37th Avenue for about 100 years, and it’s getting a little tired. The school has been expanded and updated a couple of times, and now it’s time for a major overhaul, paid for by the school bond passed last year.
On Feb. 23 neighbors, parents and teachers got to look at the plans for the school update at an open house held in Jefferson’s gymnasium.
There are three options for the school update: The east option, which will keep Jefferson where it is but either rebuild or significantly remodel it; the west option, which would construct a new building on the corner of 37th Avenue and Manito Boulevard; and the north option, which would construct a new school on 33rd Avenue, across from Sacajawea Middle School.
A steering committee consisting of Spokane Public School staff, teachers and parents has been working on developing the three options.
One of the steering committee’s biggest concerns is student safety. If the school is remodeled, plans have to be made for students during construction.
“It would be very difficult to teach at a school that’s under construction,” said Nancy Avery, a third-grade teacher at Jefferson.
Another safety concern at the current location pertains to traffic: The school is at the busy intersection of 37th Avenue and Grand Boulevard. A remodeled Jefferson would include a loop where parents can drop off children safely, away from traffic. Currently, students are dropped off at the sidewalk in front of the school.
Some liked the idea of moving the school away from the intersection, but others were concerned that would bring too many school buses on to narrow neighborhood streets.
Lance Johnson recently bought a house near Sacajawea.
“I don’t want more buses 10 feet from my backdoor,” he said, as people gathered around the north option map. “I just don’t see how this is going to work out.”
Looking at the west option, several people remarked that they’d rather be across the street from an elementary school than across the street from the ball fields that are currently there, because soccer players and their families clog the streets when parking during games.
Greg Brown, director of capital projects for Spokane Public Schools, said it would be best to have the site selected by June.
“Once we have a site selected, then the design process can begin,” Brown explained. “If we get that going by fall of 2010, then we can start building in the spring of 2012 and be done in fall of 2013.”
Hart Field would be impacted in different ways depending on which site is chosen: the west option would impact the soccer fields, the north option would impact the two smaller baseball diamonds across the street from Sacajawea and the tennis courts, and the east option would impact the track and football field
This was just the first open house in a series of meetings and presentations seeking public input.
“There will be lots of opportunities to comment on this, before we finalize anything,” Brown said.