At Evergreen Middle School, the halls are wide and spacious. Natural light shines through windows and skylights. The floor is tile, but a softer kind, laid in an effort to dampen the institutional vibe.
This fall, 750 students walked into the newly renovated facility – one of six Central Valley School District schools renovated over the past two years. In addition to the renovations, the district has built five new schools.
If district administrators and planners get their way in 2018, there will be even more buildings.
The construction was made possible by a $121.9 million construction bond passed by voters in 2015 – the first bond approved by voters in 17 years. In 2018, the district will ask voters to approve another bond for $130 million. That money would fund the construction of a new high school and middle school.
Because no bond had been passed in 17 years, said Superintendent Ben Small, some catch-up was needed. He hopes the implementation of the 2015 bond showed voters that the district knows what to do with their money.
“We’ve delivered on a lot of our promises,” he said. “I think we have been very good stewards of the funds our community has given us.”
The linchpin of the multiyear project funded by the 2015 bond was the remodeling of an old Yoke’s supermarket. That building now houses Mica Peak, the district’s alternative high school, and the Early Learning Center for children between 4 weeks and 6 years old.
That construction phase, which mostly wrapped up in September, allowed the district to meet state-mandated K-3 class size reductions and improve school security and accessibility, according to a district publication.
However, even with the new building the high schools are over capacity by 1,000 students and the middle schools are over capacity by about 50 students. That’s why the 2018 bond is key, Small said.
“We haven’t quit growing, and we’re continuing to grow,” Small said.
“We did this on purpose and this has always been part of a plan,” he added.
The Spokane metro area experienced job growth of 2.8 percent in 2016, according to the Washington Employment Security Department.
That growth has spread into the Central Valley School District. Fourteen years ago Evergreen Middle School grew about 1 percent a year, said Principal John Parker. Now the school grows between 2 and 3 percent each year.
“As the housing market continues to be strong we will continue to see that growth,” Small said of the entire district.
The district has had “pockets of growth” throughout the entire district. In the hopes of getting ahead of that growth, Small said the district has contracted with a company called FLO Analytics, a school district planning company. The company has helped the district with enrollment forecasting.
“We are seeing steady growth, and as that happens of course we’re seeing more kids in our system,” he said.
Much of the 2015 funded projects have come in under budget and before deadline, Small said. Evergreen Middle School finished about $1 million under budget and was finished roughly four months earlier than anticipated, Parker said.
Small said that if the 2018 bond is passed the subsequent construction would get the district “reasonably ahead of growth.”
All the construction will necessitate boundary changes throughout the district, Small said. But the district will wait to make those decisions until after the 2018 bond.
“If we were to adopt boundaries today, by the time we opened the school those boundaries would need to change,” he said.
“To set boundaries today and have them change in two years, I don’t think is being honest with our community,” he added.
An earlier version of this story incorrectly named and described the school district planning company FLO Analytics. The story has been corrected.
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