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$495 million Spokane Public Schools bond: Digging into the details

New classrooms at Lewis and Clark High School, pictured here, are among the projects to be paid for by a recently-passed $495 million school bond. (Libby Kamrowski / The Spokesman-Review)
New classrooms at Lewis and Clark High School, pictured here, are among the projects to be paid for by a recently-passed $495 million school bond. (Libby Kamrowski / The Spokesman-Review)

Tuesday’s election answered a big question for Spokane Public Schools, but it posed a few more.

“We’re so appreciative of the community’s continued support of the school district,” board President Sue Chapin said Friday. “But we have a lot of work ahead of us.”

Indeed, now that voters have approved a $495 million capital bond, they’re likely to ask for a few more specifics.

Associate Superintendent Mark Anderson, who brought the idea for a bond to the school board last spring, also has some details on how the district plans to build six middle schools along with other major projects in the new bond.

First things first: The district still must finish some major projects from the 2015 bond, including a new Linwood Elementary School, improvements and additions at Adams and Wilson elementary schools and new classrooms at Lewis and Clark High School.

However, the district has already laid the groundwork for some of the projects in the just-approved bond. One of them, a new cafeteria/commons at LC, will go forward in conjunction with the classroom project and save about $1.5 million in duplicated costs.

The six middle schools, which are expected to cost about $60 million each, also present the biggest challenges. Each will be a multiyear project.

The tentative plan, according to Anderson, is to start in the north, with replacement of Shaw and Glover middle schools. That would allow the district to move all sixth-graders at once into the new buildings.

Next would come the new middle schools, one near Joe Albi Stadium and the other on North Foothills Drive.

Completion of the last projects – replacement of Sacajawea and building a new school adjacent to Mullan Road Elementary School – would occur in 2023.

The building schedule is constrained by what Anderson calls “contractor capability,” or the lack of enough contractors and subcontractors to complete large projects at the same time.

“That’s part of the reason for the pacing,” said Anderson, who added that a phased approach allows for more oversight by district officials.

In the meantime, the district approved new guidelines last summer on how the three new middle schools would be named. Citizen input will be encouraged, with a final decision coming as soon as next fall.

The citizen input on Election Day – the bond received 67 percent approval – was a “pleasant surprise,” Chapin said.

“It shows that voters trust us to do the best for education in Spokane – and we will,” Chapin said.

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