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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Education

Spokane Public Schools plans to ask voters to fund next round of new buildings

By Jim Allen For The Spokesman-Review

Demolishing and rebuilding four old elementary school buildings – one of them built before World War I – are at the top of Spokane Public Schools’ wish list as the district plans for a capital bond early in 2024.

According to documents that will be shared during a school board workshop Wednesday night, the district has identified about 20 buildings or programs that it would like to update or change.

They include updating two older middle schools, the Community School, the Spanish Immersion program at the Libby Center as well as North Central High School.

However, it’s unclear how many of those projects would be included in the bond, which would go to a vote six years after citizens approved a $495 million capital bond in 2018.

School district leaders are expected to hold another meeting Dec. 14 to ask the board to consider formal adoption of identified needs and priorities. At that point, the district would begin a cost analysis and timeline toward a bond initiative for a special election in February 2024.

A district work group has identified Adams, Balboa, Indian Trail and Madison elementary schools as top priorities for the 2024 bond.

“These are our oldest elementary schools, and it’s in our interest to modernize those schools,” said Shawn Jordan, the district’s chief operating officer.

For example, the schools’ HVAC systems – a critical issue during the pandemic – are outdated “and we spend a lot of time and money repairing them,” Jordan said Monday.

Between repairs “classrooms can be colder than we want,” Jordan said.

Balboa and Indian Trail were built in the 1960s, while Madison was built in 1949, more than a decade before the recently replaced Shaw and Glover middle schools.

Adams is from a different age entirely. When the first bricks were laid at the corner of 37th and Regal in 1910, the dirt roads in southeast Spokane were traversed mostly by horse-drawn wagons.

Over the next 112 years, the district has augmented the building with patchwork upgrades and portable classrooms to accommodate the growing number of students.

Adams also has the smallest footprint of any building in the district – about half a square block. However, Jordan said the district wants to build a new Adams on the site of the old building.

Plans for a new building have been discussed in the past and the district already has architectural plans for a proposed replacement. While a new Adams is built, students would learn at the old Jefferson Elementary building at 37th and Grand.

Tentative plans are similar for the three northside schools, of which Balboa is the only school with a campus large enough to allow a new building to be constructed while the old building still is being used.

That means students at Madison and Indian Trail would use the old Balboa school while their buildings are being replaced.

Upgrades to Chase and Garry middle schools also are slated for modest upgrades that would allow for a comparable learning experience to the recently built schools, according to Heather Bybee, the district’s chief academic officer.

“The interest is in supporting the sixth-grade transition and making the big feel small,” Bybee said, referencing the district’s ongoing move of sixth-graders to middle schools.

Also high on the list are a relocation of the alternative high school program at the Pratt Academy, expansion of the Spanish Immersion program at Libby and renovation of older sections of North Central High School.

Further down on the list are additional programming or expansion at the NewTECH Skills Center, On Track Academy, Spokane Virtual Academy, Bryant/TEC, the Odyssey program at Libby, Spokane Public Montessori, and the Apple programs at Franklin and Garfield elementary schools.

While it’s not on the priority list, the district also may consider planning for a new school in the fast-growing Qualchan area, Jordan said. Currently, students living in that area are bused to schools on the South Hill.

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