MLSD board members will decide how to accommodate growth

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Phil Crocker of Teater-Crocker, Inc. — a planning consultant for the Moses Lake School District — made a presentation at Thursday’s school board meeting about the needs the district will face in the coming years as the District student body continues to grow.

“(Acting Superintendent Carole Meyer) asked me to give you a brief update – a high level overview – of the elementary school (findings of the long range planning committee) last year for this small community,” Crocker said.

Crocker said the committee was formed in early 2021 and met four times — Jan. 11, Jan. 25, March 8 and June 2 — to discuss district needs. The committee included two elementary school principals, the superintendent, a board member, the district chief operating officer, and two community members. After considering district needs and increased enrollment, the committee recommended the immediate replacement of two portable classrooms; two more laptops need to be replaced in the next 10 years, and 18 laptops in 15 years, which means that 22 of the 26 laptops in the district need to be replaced. The committee also recommends additional on-campus gymnasiums and at least one 450-student elementary school added as a replacement for an unspecified campus, which could potentially be used as an early learning center.

The three options associated with these recommendations have varying benefits and costs, Crocker said. If a new twelfth elementary school is built over the next seven years, it could add 428 students to the district’s overall capacity of 3,917 elementary students. The estimated cost of the new campus is approximately $27 million. Adding gymnasiums, a cafeteria and music space to four elementary campuses wouldn’t increase capacity, but would allow for fewer lunch breaks and more physical education, which the district lacks, according to the state standards, at a cost of about $28 million, he mentioned. The third option of replacing the laptops would cost about $1.2 million over the next seven years and about another $1.2 million in eight to 15 years. The costs of each of these options will likely increase if the district fails to move quickly, due to supply chain issues caused by the pandemic.

Overall, the committee recommended adding the new elementary campus to reduce laptop use by about 25 percent, Crocker said.

Expansion of gymnasiums, cafeterias and music spaces as the second option would be awarded to Garden Heights, Lakeview, Knolls Vista and Larson Heights elementary schools, according to Crocker’s presentation. Typically, additional restrooms, custodial spaces and dining facilities can be added as gymnasium facilities expand, making campus upgrades more efficient, Crocker said.

The cost of a portable classroom is around $400,000 to $750,000, Crocker said. The two buildings that need to be replaced immediately are located at Midway Elementary School, according to his presentation.

The committee’s goal was to assess the district’s needs and improve academic outcomes, Crocker said. By reducing portable use and adding capacity to district campuses, he hoped class sizes would remain manageable as the number of students in the district increased. The goal was to maintain an average of 22 students for the class size, he said. In the current school year, the total primary enrollment for MLSD is 4,267 students. By the 2025-2026 school year, that number is expected to increase to 4,612.

Meyer said the long-range planning committee is scheduled to meet again Jan. 28 to consider next steps in planning for the district’s future needs. She added that Susan Freeman, a member of the board of directors, would participate in the committee.

“We’re going to recreate a team, bring the group together and start working on the next steps,” Meyer said.

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