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The Ellensburg School District celebrated the completion of the first phase of the new Morgan Middle School in September, and is now looking ahead at options to relieve overcrowding in its three elementary schools.

Back in February, two options were brought to the school board by the Community Capital Planning Committee: building a fourth elementary school and modernizing Lincoln Elementary School, or building a fourth elementary school for grades 1-5 and a developmental preschool and kindergarten for 350 students, as well as minimal modernization to Lincoln.

In the fall, community members, parents and staff participated in a Thought Exchange survey that presented two similar options: Option 1 was to modernize Lincoln for continued use as an educational space, while Option 2 was to build two new elementary schools and re-purpose Lincoln as a community center.

Nearly 80 percent of participants supported Option 1 with 8.8 percent opposed; and 32.8 percent supported Option 2 with 47.9 percent opposed.

During a special meeting, the board agreed that it preferred the option with the most seats, but that the eventual result will look like a hybrid of the two plans. The school board also discussed several different scenarios, including buying Mountain View Park from the city of Ellensburg and building a new elementary school on it and selling Lincoln to the city to use as a community center, buying Mountain View Park for a new elementary school while keeping and modernizing Lincoln, buying all or a portion of 52 acres on Helena Avenue owned by CWU for a new elementary school or buying land north of Mount Stuart Elementary School.

Efforts are currently being made reorganize the community planning committee, which helped develop options for the successful Morgan Middle School bond, and combine that with more community surveys or an advisory measure on the ballot this spring. Several things have changed since the first CCPC gathering in February, including the school levy amount dropping to $1.50 per $1,000 and the changes in assessed property value in the district.

Opening Morgan

After what seemed like a lifetime of waiting, the first phase of the Morgan Middle School construction was completed prior to the 2017-18 school year. After work was completed on the auditorium, community members were invited to an open house in early November.

The new auditorium has 718 seats and is equipped with state-of-the-art sound, lighting and rigging. While the school waits for the second phase of construction to complete, the secondary band room is being used as a regular classroom, and the theater space could be used for PE classes.

Along with a new theater, Morgan now has an auxiliary gym, taking up the space where the tennis courts used to be.

The second phase of construction will be completed by the start of next school year, and will see two new wings built on the west side of the campus, along with the completion of the gymnasium remodel.

Superintendent search

Mike Nollan has been serving as the interim superintendent in Ellensburg since the board ended its contract with Paul Farris in April.

Search efforts are underway to find a new superintendent. The Ellensburg School Board plans to meet frequently in January to nail down its priorities before going over the short list of candidates on Jan. 23. From there, the district will bring in five or six candidates for preliminary interviews.

The board is currently looking for 15 volunteers who represent different stakeholder groups in the district to help interview five to seven superintendent candidates, which are planned for Feb. 3.

Applications to volunteer can be accessed on the school district’s website at esd401.org. Completed applications should be sent to Tara Long (tara.long@esd401.org) by Jan. 5.