Mount Stuart land

A map of Ellensburg School District land at Mount Stuart Elementary School. The RCO land in blue refers to land set aside as a park through an agreement with the state Recreation and Conservation Office.

Support Local Journalism


Subscribe


The Ellensburg School Board seems settled on the immediate fate of the Mount Stuart Elementary School property, but continues to explore a range of options for location of future elementary school facilities.

At a special meeting Tuesday night, the school board reviewed a plan that would allow the district to meet a grant requirement that property surrounding Mount Stuart be accessible as a park.

In the 1960s the district received a $9,502 grant from the Land and Water Conservation Fund to assist in purchasing property for the school. One of the grant requirements was the property surrounding the school, roughly 20 acres, be dedicated to community park use.

“That never really happened,” said Jennifer Hackett, school board president. “Over the years the RCO (state Recreation and Conservation Office) has become increasingly annoyed with us.”

Hackett said in discussions with state officials it became evident that it would not be difficult to meet the requirements for the land to be used as a park.

“It does nothing to change the footprint of Mount Stuart,” Hackett said.

She said the property does not need to be fenced and access can be restricted. The Mount Stuart property will include 9.5 acres for the school facilities and 18 acres for the park. Students will have access to all the property, and the park property would be open for public use from 5 p.m. to dark on Monday through Friday and daylight hours on weekends.

The agreement does not preclude the district from swapping the park land for another property at some point in the future if the district decides it wants to build on that property.

The school board had discussed purchasing property elsewhere for use as a park to free up the Mount Stuart property for school use.

“We decided because of our pressing facility needs, this was not the time to be buying property we were not going to be using right away,” Hackett said.

SCHOOLS: WHAT AND WHERE?

With the Mount Stuart property off the table, the district is pursuing other options for locations of new school facilities and is in discussions with Central Washington University and the city of Ellensburg.

Meg Ludlum, school board member, said over months of discussions, two primary options have surfaced. Option one would construct an all-kindergarten facility and a grades 1-5 building and include some modernization of Lincoln. Option two would construct two K-5 buildings and fully modernize Lincoln. Both options would accommodate about 950 students.

One complication for the district is it currently houses enough students in portable classrooms to fill a new grade school building. If the goal is to take the students out of portables, the new construction has to account for those students plus additional growth.

Ludlum said if negotiations with Central are successful, the district could build the kindergarten building and the 1-5 school on the property off of Helena Avenue. The district would not build two K-5 buildings on the same property.

Mike Nollan, interim superintendent, said Central is in the process of having the Helena property appraised.

Ludlum said both options have their pros and cons.

“Option 1 is new and different. A kindergarten facility would allow kindergarten teachers to share their vision and collaborate. There’d be an opportunity for Central to train students and have shared facilities,” Ludlum said. “Option 2 is traditional, accepted, something we all understand, but it does involve two properties.”

In the range of ideas being explored, Lincoln can be either completely renovated or traded to the city for use as a community center with the district obtaining city-owned land for construction of a building to replace Lincoln.

WINDOW OF OPPORTUNITY

School officials said the changes the state has made in school funding to come into compliance with the McCleary ruling to fully fund K-12 education have pushed up the time table to address pressing facility needs.

The district will be going to voters for a education levy in February that is about half what it traditional sought. State law caps the levy rate at $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed property valuation, which is less that half what the district sought in the last maintenance and operations levy.

This creates an opportunity for the district to seek a substantial construction bond ($65 million) while keeping the total property tax collected (levies and bonds) at a same or lower rate currently collected.

There is an urgency, though, to the discussions with the university and city. The school board is looking at a tentative schedule that would have it making a decision of what to seek this summer to place the issue on the November ballot.

Comments

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.