Othello School Board forms committee to study space needs

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OTHELLO — Othello School District patrons are being invited to join a committee to look at the facility needs of the district and make recommendations how to address them. District superintendent Chris Hurst said a plan to convert the district’s elementary schools to kindergarten through eighth grade will be suspended while the committee does its work. People who want to serve on the committee should contact the district office. The committee was proposed by Othello School Board member Tony Ashton a special meeting Aug. 4 to review a report on the space that would be needed for the transition and its potential cost. Hurst, speaking at Monday’s regular board meeting, said the information caused district officials to review their planning. The estimate was about $32.6 million. Not all of that was for the K-8 transition, Hurst said; it included costs for other changes district officials plan to make. But however it’s allocated, “that is a big price tag that would have to go to our community, our voters, for a potential bond in the future.” In addition, the estimate only included current students, with no provision for growth. In light of that, “we’re reflecting, we’re taking a step back - we really want to pause, just the conversation,” Hurst said. “We wholeheartedly believe in direction and the work that’s happening here,” Hurst said, with teachers and staff in support of the district’s direction. But “we realize we did have to pause. Which is an opportunity.” Hurst said it gives district officials time to talk to district patrons about the proposed changes. “How do we get others involved? How do we bring more people to the table?” The innovations won’t succeed without community support, he said. The committee will be a maximum of 25 people, including a maximum of five people with kids (or grandkids) in school and a max of five district patrons without kids in school. If more than five people apply, the committee members would be chosen by lottery. The committee will also include one teacher from each school; to be nominated by the school staff; two school board members, two high school students, a representative from the city of Othello, the superintendent, a second central office administrator chosen by its staff, and one principal or vice-principal from a school, chosen by the other administrators. The committee will be asked to determine what the district’s facility needs are, focusing on the next five years. Board member Ken Johnson said he thought district officials needed to take a longer-term look, at least 10 years out. Ashton said, and Johnson agreed, that could be the work of a second committee, after the first committee’s job is finished. The committee members will set a timetable to report to the board, and will be asked to meet twice a month until they come up with a recommendation. Board members are asking for at least two options.

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