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It was an emotionally turbulent election for the Ellensburg School District, but after full week of waiting for the Kittitas County Auditor’s Office to finish counting ballots, its $59.5 million elementary school expansion bond finally passed.

The school board and staff were elated when the final numbers came in, since overcrowding at the elementary level had been a problem for years, the issue even cracking the Daily Record’s Top 10 stories of the year in 2017.

The bond proposal included the construction of a brand new elementary school to be built north of Mount Stuart Elementary School, along with renovations to Mount Stuart and Lincoln elementary schools.

The bond went from 58.86 percent approved on election night to a final count of 62.69 percent, according to the Kittitas County Auditor’s website.

Project parameters

By building new and renovating the two older elementary schools, the plan is to increase capacity in the district by 750 seats over five or six years, giving the district a total of 1,800 seats.

The new school would be constructed first, then depending on which school is renovated first, Mount Stuart or Lincoln students would be moved to the new school during the renovations.

The proposal would decrease the Ellensburg School District tax rate by 30 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value and keep it there. This is due to the local levy being capped at $1.50 per $1,000 by the state Legislature and Ellensburg High School getting paid off in 2021.

Another important aspect of the project is not just the seats in the classrooms, but the core spaces, like the cafeterias and gyms. It also will add proper infrastructure for more security, and revamped HVAC systems to help with heating, cooling and air quality during smoky days.

Going forward

After the district gets an updated credit rating, the bonds will be sold sometime in January or February, ESD business director Brian Aiken said in an Daily Record article earlier this year. Meanwhile, the district is focusing on scheduling meetings with the community to get public input on the design of the new construction.

“These buildings could be around for 100 years if we do this right,” Aiken said. This is an opportunity to reach back out to our community that supported us and ask for their ideas and input.”

The district also officially hired Integrus Architects to be its Capital Improvement Bond architect and authorized the superintendent to negotiate a contract.

Aiken said a few things stood out about Integrus, including their emphasis on community input and engagement.

“Every member of the community brings different ideas and different visions,” board member Jennifer Hackett said. “We’re very sensitive to the fiscal concerns and educational and environmental concerns. When you work with us we don’t do anything behind closed doors.”

Next up, the district will begin to schedule meetings not only with the public, but with the city of Ellensburg to talk about development of the land and other crucial work, including roadways, ingress and egress and other preliminary engineering work that needs to be done.

“Hopefully before too long we’ll be talking about school design,” Aiken said.

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