College Place bond would add high school

The board has specified that any excess funds from the project will be returned to taxpayers to pay down the debt.

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COLLEGE PLACE - City residents will be asked this April to support a bond that would rebuild Davis Elementary, and restructure Meadow Brook Intermediate and Sager Middle School into the district's new middle school and high school.

The April 17 bond is an effort by the College Place School Board to address needed repairs and expansion at Davis, while also establishing a public high school to serve College Place students.

The School Board is asking residents to cover $38.5 million of what will be a $49.4 million bond to rebuild and remodel the city's existing public schools. About $10.8 million in state matching funds would complete the project.

Under the plan, Davis Elementary would be demolished and rebuilt to accommodate pre-K through fifth grades.

Meadow Brook and Sager, which sit on the same campus on South College Avenue, would be remodeled, and new construction added to create a middle school and high school with some shared space.

The School Board on Thursday unanimously approved a resolution that allows the district to move forward with the special election and bond proposal, and to carry out the project should it be approved.

The board has specified that any excess funds from the project will be returned to taxpayers to pay down the debt.

The district is taking advantage of low interest rates, and no current bond debt as it proceeds with plans to modernize its facilities and establish a city high school. The district recently paid off its bond from the construction of Meadow Brook in 1995, which helped set the current bond rate at $2.70 per $1,000 of assessed property value.

Should the proposal pass, the community would primarily be addressing overdue facility needs at Davis. Currently a pre-K through third-grade school, Davis would be rebuilt to accommodate fourth and fifth grades as well, leaving Meadow Brook to house sixth, seventh and eighth grades.

The Sager Middle School facility would then be converted into a high school, with the goal of adding ninth-graders the first year the school is open, and 10th-graders the following year, until all grades are included.

The district recently sought and secured from the state the ability to establish its own high school district.

If the bond passes, College Place high school students would no longer be required to attend high school at Walla Walla High School, where they are currently served.

The April 17 bond requires a supermajority, or 60 percent of votes, to pass.

College Place has in the past tried, but failed, to establish a high school in the city. But the stakes began to shift recently when Walla Walla Public Schools unveiled plans to remodel Wa-Hi, with the goal of eventually seeking a bond.

Without its own high school, College Place would have to prepare and pass a bond of its own to cover its share to remodel Wa-Hi. College Place Board President Doug Case said that could be nearly $10 million, based on the Wa-Hi proposals he had seen.

Case said the pressing need in College Place was to address Davis and get Davis rebuilt. But he said this was also the right opportunity to create a local high school, and free the community from any obligations to Walla Walla.

The district is proceeding with a bold campaign to outline the needs - and stakes - to the community. There is a professional video that highlights the values of living in College Place and explains the reasons for seeking a bond this year.

A series of public forums and building tours kick off next week, and both a community website and Facebook page have been created.

Should a College Place bond fail, and a Walla Walla High School bond pass in the near future, College Place voters would then be responsible for passing a proposal to cover their share of Wa-Hi's remodel. Should that fail as well, there is the potential for the College Place district to be absorbed by Walla Walla Public Schools.

The scenario seems a far-fetched hypothetical, but College Place Public Schools Superintendent Tim Payne said losing the district to Walla Walla is a real concern.

The issue of small districts being dissolved or absorbed by larger districts is a statewide discussion. A bill that would streamline the dissolution of districts facing financial insolvency is currently being considered by state legislators.

"The reason that's highly likely is because that's what the current climate is," Payne said.

MEETING AND TOUR DATES

Tuesday - 6:30 p.m. Community Q&A with board members in the Sager gym.

Feb. 28 - 6:30 p.m. Community forum in the Valley Chapel School House.

March 7 -5:30 p.m. Davis Elementary walk-through.

March 13 - 6:30 p.m. Community forum in Fire Station 4 on the Old Milton Highway.

March 14 - 5:30 p.m. Meadow Brook walk-through.

March 20 - 6:30 p.m. Community Forum in the Fire Station on Wallula.

March 21 - 5:30 p.m. Sager Middle School walk-through.

More information on the College Place Public Schools bond is available online at:

ourplacecollegeplace.org

Facebook.com/OurPlaceCollegePlace

Cpps.org

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