Spokane Public Schools hope to build three new middle schools starting in 2021 in anticipation of moving sixth-grade students out of elementary school.
Four sites have been proposed: one in northeast Spokane, another in northwest Spokane and two locations on the south side, near U.S. Highway 195.
In June, the board of directors voted to move sixth-grade students into middle school. The grade configuration changes are in response to increasing enrollment and statewide K-3 class-size reduction, as well as mandatory full-day kindergarten. It is also one among a number of steps in preparation for the 2021 bond issue. Those changes compel the district to build three new middle schools.
Mark Anderson, the district associate superintendent, said the district is hoping to buy property directly across from Gonzaga Preparatory School on North Foothills Drive. That property is currently owned by the city, according to Anderson.
The district has had an offer on the property before the city for two years, Anderson said. City officials are waiting for the city to decide whether to sell the land.
“The city and the mayor and the (city) council, they’re all really supportive of this,” Anderson said. “They’re just trying to figure out their needs first.”
Brian Coddington, the city’s spokesman, said the water department uses the North Foothill Drive property currently.
“The discussions are ongoing about the uses there and about how the school district needs can be met on that property,” he said.
The second middle school would be located at Joe Albi Stadium, which Spokane Public Schools has owned and operated since 2013. Building the middle school there would require downsizing stadium seating from about 30,000 to 7,000, Anderson said. The reduced parking lot space would give the district 20 acres on which to build a middle school.
“You could have room for a school and have parking for a 7,000-seat stadium,” Anderson said.
The Joe Albi Stadium site is the only proposed middle school site that the district currently fully owns.
The third area that the state’s second-largest district is looking to purchase is on the south side, near Thorpe Road, off Highway 195. Anderson said the district is in negotiations with a developer in that area. The developer plans to build single-family and multi-family housing, and would allow a school to be part of the development.
A fourth spot is also under consideration, Anderson said. The district owns 5.6 acres near the Eagle Ridge housing development along Highway 195. Adjacent to that is a plot of undeveloped city parkland. The city is considering leasing the parkland to the district, which would allow the middle school to use that land as a play field, Anderson said.
Each middle school will cost roughly $38 million, Anderson said. Construction of the middle schools won’t start until 2021, pending voter approval of a bond.
The last middle school to be built by the school district was Chase Middle School.
Adding three new middle schools will necessitate changing attendance boundaries. In anticipation of that, the district has convened an attendance boundary study group which, over the course of the next year, will examine and debate the impacts of different boundary change proposals. The study group is comprised of parents, community members and administrative staff. The group will meet on average once a month. The boundary study committee’s findings will be presented to the board next spring.
In 2018-19, district administrative staff plan to present the board with master plan options and in 2019-20 the master plan will be finalized in preparation for the 2021 bond.
The board decided to move sixth-graders into middle school in June, after receiving input from school staff and community members. About 63 percent of districts in the state have a K-5 configuration; 23 percent of districts have a K-6 setup; and 8 percent have a K-8 configuration, according to Anderson. In a poll of 3,720 parents, school staff and community members, 91 percent had “positive thoughts” about the K-5, 6-8, 9-12 grade configuration model.