Washington School District

Washington School District

The Washington School District will seek bids for a two-story, 11-classroom addition, at Washington West Elementary.

The school board Wednesday night approved moving forward with design and bid specifications for the project. An alternate bid also will be sought for a 13-classroom addition.

The project would be financed with funds left over from a $9 million, no tax-rate increase, approved by voters in April 2013.

If bids are favorable and the board awards a contract, the plan is to close Fifth Street Elementary and relocate most, if not all, of those students to Washington West. Elementary boundary line changes also are under review as part of this project.

Superintendent Dr. Lori VanLeer said Washington West is overcrowded now and the addition will not only ease space constraints for existing students, but allow for the addition of Fifth Street students.

“There’s been a lot of analysis done on this,” VanLeer told the board, which also discussed the project last month.

VanLeer said Fifth Street Elementary is landlocked and repairs, especially HVAC improvements, would cost more than building an addition to Washington West. She also said there is a potential buyer for the Fifth Street building and property, bringing in additional revenue to the district.

School officials have talked for some time about closing both Fifth Street and South Point Elementary as part of their long-range plans due to costly repairs needed. South Point also is located in a floodplain.

VanLeer said there are no plans to close South Point at this time because voters rejected a $40 million bond issue, with a 25-cent tax rate increase, which would have allowed for a new middle school to be built and that facility to convert to an elementary school.

“So now we’re trying to make due with what we have,” VanLeer said. “We have the money left over from the $9 million bond issue and that will at least allow us to move forward with closing Fifth Street and adding on to West.”

At Wednesday’s meeting, Mark Reuther, of Hoener Associates, the district’s architect, and Ron Unnerstall of Washington Engineering & Architecture, were present to explain the project, code requirements and answer any questions. School officials, along with the architect and engineer, have met several times at the site to discuss code issues with the city and fire chief.

One such requirement is a 26-foot paved fire lane around the school. VanLeer said the a two-story addition was determined to be the better option to meet all code requirements and keep costs down with the fire loop.

An elevator will be required in the addition, she said, which will be an added expense.

VanLeer said the alternate bid for 13 classrooms would be ideal if the bid numbers are right.

“That would provide us the most room for growth,” she said.

The addition would be built on the northeast corner of the existing building. The current playground will stay where it is, VanLeer said.

The tentative timeline would be for the addition to be ready by the 2015-16 school year.