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Ellensburg School District officials say they have found a way to stay under budget with the construction of two new schools near the current Mount Stuart Elementary.

The current plan is to build a new Mount Stuart just north of the existing building, while still being on the same property. Another, currently unnamed, K-5 school will be built even further north of the Mount Stuart property, past the John Wayne Trail on property the district purchased last year.

According to School Board President Tosha Woods, students will continue to take classes in the existing Mount Stuart. Once the new Mount Stuart is completed, students will be moved into the new building, and the old Mount Stuart will be demolished.

The original plan was to extend West Helena Avenue and North Cora Street until they intersect, then build the new, unnamed school on that intersection. The current plan, and the solution to the budget problem, is to only extend Cora to meet the school, and not extend Helena.

The budget problems occurred when, in July, a study was conducted by the Department of Ecology that stated that the wetlands extended 95 feet instead of the original 25 feet. This meant that mitigation costs of the wetlands would put the project overbudget. There were also some unanticipated development costs with the construction of the unnamed school.

Another impact on the budget was that it was decided to build an entirely new Mount Stuart Elementary instead of renovating the current building. According to Executive Director of Business Services for the district, Brian Aiken, this was recommended to the district by the construction management team. This was because the foundations for the current building were damaged and, while it might be cheaper to remodel, it will be better to rebuild and have a more modernized building with stronger foundations. However, the current Mount Stuart Elementary gymnasium is still in good condition and the school will continue to use it.

“Anytime you build a building from the ground up, you know what the costs are going to be, opposed to trying to modernize a building that’s got a bad foundation and bad walls,” Aiken said. “It is easier to demo(lish) it and just build new than it is to try and restore and build on to (the old building).”

The district considered building both schools on the current Mount Stuart property, but after bringing this option up to the public on Sept. 18, the district went to the city of Ellensburg for help.

Aiken said that after collaborating with the city and the district’s construction management team, the ESD was able to find a way to stay under budget via a lot line adjustment. This means the district won’t have do any street development on Helena.

Mitigating the wetlands is still a necessary step in the project, but the district can now afford it. North Cora Street will still be developed to meet the site of the unnamed school.

Overall this new plan is very similar to the original plan that was disrupted due to budgeting constraints, the district has simply found a solution to those constraints.

“We are basically going back to our original plan,” Aiken said, “Which we are all really happy about. So this is good, this is a good news story I think.”

The district hopes that construction of the new Mount Stuart Elementary will begin in April 2020. Aiken said that the target completion date of the new Mount Stuart will be by September of 2021, and that the completion of the unnamed school will be later in the fall of 2022.

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