Mount Stuart Final Beam Signing

Construction on the the new Mount Stuart building as seen in this Oct. 8, 2020 photo. The district was able to purchase building materials prior to a spike in material costs.

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At the start of 2019, the Ellensburg School Board voted to build a new Mount Stuart Elementary School instead of remodeling the current one. By making this decision, the ESD board unknowingly saved the district and the taxpayers possibly millions of dollars in 2021, according to district officials.

This decision led to the construction of the new Mount Stuart and Ida Nason Aronica Elementary School starting around the same time, so the district made sure to buy all materials for the projects in advance, just before the coronavirus pandemic hit the country. The pandemic has raised the prices of materials like steel and lumber drastically (lumber has risen roughly 73%). If the district had started construction of one project at a separate time, the material cost of the project would have nearly doubled.

The district was not able to fully dodge this economical bullet, as the renovations for Lincoln Elementary School (scheduled for June 2021) have increased by around $1.4 million, forcing the district to use its construction contingency funds, according to Brian Aiken, ESD Executive Director of Business Services.

“We had to figure out ways to do things more efficiently and at less cost,” Aiken said. “We went through what is called a value engineering process to still get everything accomplished as promised.”

Due to the increased cost of materials, the district will be adding additional classrooms to Ida Nason Aronica during its construction.

Aiken said the layout of the building intentionally left some space for classrooms to be added sometime in the future, whether that be two years from now or 20. However, because the material cost is increasing exponentially, the district wants these additions sooner rather than later.

The additions come in the form of three more kindergarten classrooms in the corners of the main building. The southwest corner classroom will be completed with the rest of the school in time for fall classes, however the northwest/east rooms will not be finished until after classes begin.

“I think this community is going to be the envy of most school districts in this state when we have nearly all our school buildings either new or newly remodeled,” Aiken said. “That’s a fantastic place to be.”

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