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Classroom space tight at new school


Money makes the world go around, and it also builds school classrooms.

Both classrooms and money are in short supply at the Grand Coulee Dam School District, just three years after opening the new Lake Roosevelt Schools complex in 2014.

Currently, the school district is in the midst of its five-year “study and survey” that will spell out the district’s classroom needs in detail.

There’s currently a crunch for classroom space, specifically in the elementary wing of the school.

The “study and survey,” after a review by Superintendent Paul Turner and the school board, will move on to the state, where officials there will put their formula to it to determine if they will loosen up some funds to assist the district.

In the last study and survey, done in 2012, the Grand Coulee Dam District had 669 students, the same amount it had the previous year. Back in the 1993-94 school year, the district had 955 students. The most recent report, for the month of December, stated the district has 714 students.

The study and survey is being done by Design West, the Pullman architectural firm that planned and oversaw the construction of the new school facility. Architect Cameron Golightly said last week that the study-and-survey document would be ready around the end of February.

Even if the survey prompted state education officials to nod an approval for some kind of funding, the district would be hard pressed to come up with the matching money.

It appears the district will have to have another run to the Legislature for financial help, a task made more difficult since the district’s legislative mentor, state Sen. Linda Evans Parlette of the 12th District, is no longer calling the shots. She retired from politics, and her replacement, Sen. Brad Hawkins, is new to the senate and has no ties with the district.

The elementary school currently has 387 students, not counting the pre-schoolers.

There are three kindergarten, three first grade, two second grade, three third grade, three fourth grade, two fifth grade and two sixth grade classes. One preschool classroom serves about 45 students in three classes.

The district has little wiggle room when it comes to classroom space. The preschool operation could possibly be moved, but the rest of the elementary wing is still exploding with kids.

“We have been turning away students from outside the district who have tried to enroll,” Turner said last week. He couldn’t be specific on how many, but said it was “several.”

The exception is when there is room in the grade level of the incoming student.

The district, in planning the new school complex, recognized that space might be a future issue and installed utilities in one of the playground areas for later expansion. The idea of portables alongside the new facility is not a topic that anyone wants to talk about.

Even portable classrooms would be costly because they would have to be refitted to look like the new building.

Then there’s the money — or lack thereof.

Every five years districts are asked to do “a study and survey” to outline what they see as building needs for the future. The state even pays for it, about $6,000.

The district will have to wait for about a month for the report, and then wait again to see if the state will help with any classroom funding.

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