Spokane Public Schools hosted another open house at Jefferson Elementary School last Thursday. Neighbors, parents, teachers and school district staff gathered in the gym to see the renderings of the new school.
The site chosen by the school board places the new school building west of the school’s current location, but not all the way over by Manito Boulevard.
An old stand of trees on the corner of 37th Avenue and Manito Boulevard will be preserved this way satisfying some critics of the school’s relocation.
The new school will have a parent drop-off area off 37th Avenue and a school bus loop just north of the new building off Manito Boulevard.
Spokane Public Schools has presented six different options for how to construct a new Jefferson Elementary School, including rebuilding it in its current location. The budget for Jefferson is $25.1 million.
Those opposed to relocating Jefferson say that the new location will take away from Lewis and Clark High School by cutting into Hart Field’s 35.6 acres.
“In terms of the total acreage we have access to today we will lose 0.4 of an acre, and we will maintain all our athletic fields,” said Shawn Jordan, Lewis and Clark High School principal. “The positive to Lewis and Clark is that we are gaining some acreage for parking.” There will be some parking available around the new Jefferson school, and a possibility of constructing more parking at Jefferson’s current site – even while maintaining the oldest part of the school.
Jordan was on the steering committee for the Jefferson project representing the Lewis and Clark perspective.
“Both proposals, the west and the east location, resulted in us retaining all our athletic fields, which would be a concern we had,” said Jordan. Planning meetings for the renovation of Hart Field are just getting under way utilizing a separate $2.5 million budget.
Jordan said it wasn’t his place to pick one Jefferson location over the other, but he’s happy with the outcome.
“I’ve seen the plans, and the west option is going to result in the kinds of improvements that we want,” Jordan said.
Another point made by opponents of relocating Jefferson Elementary School is that the original deed for Hart Field states that the land cannot be used for anything other than an athletic field.
What’s now Hart Field was sold by the Lewis and Clark Playground Association to Spokane Public Schools – for $1 – on Feb. 29, 1940. The deed says that the area “shall at all times be used for, the promotion of the physical education of the children now attending […] Lewis and Clark High School.”
However, the next paragraph of the deed reads that “it shall be permissible to erect and to construct upon the lands hereby conveyed a school house or school houses” as long as this construction does not take away from the primary use of Hart Field as a sports field.
The nonprofit group Hart Field Preservation Organization has been registered to Dave Michaelsen and is raising funds to protect Hart Field.