Smooth opening to school year in Othello

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OTHELLO — There’s a meteorological date for the end of summer - which in 2018 is Sept. 20 - and the date summer really ends, which is the opening of school. And after a week or so, school seems to be going OK in the Othello School District. District superintendent Chris Hurst said enrollment is 4,354 students, not counting the district preschool. The preschool will have 162 kids; that’s up from 79 two years ago, Hurst said. The projected enrollment for 2018-19 is 4,434 students. District officials have changed the configuration of the district’s four elementary schools, expanding them from kindergarten through fifth grade to kindergarten through sixth grade. Three of the schools had enough room to accommodate the sixth graders, but portable classrooms had to be added at Wahitis Elementary. Installation of the portables should be completed by mid-September, Hurst said. Until they’re ready Wahitis sixth-graders will attend class at McFarland Middle School. For 2018-19 seventh and eighth graders will attend McFarland, and the preschool classes will be housed there also. “All in all it’s been a really good opening,” Hurst said. Sixth-graders are in an environment they’re used to, so incidents of harassment seem to have declined, he said. Moving sixth grade to the elementary schools was the first step in a three-year project to reconfigure the district’s elementary schools into the kindergarten through eighth grade format. District officials decided to suspend further planning for the time being, until a committee appointed by the Othello School Board makes recommendations for any changes to the district’s facilities. District officials commissioned a study of the cost of reconfiguring schools, and making some additional changes. The study estimated the cost would be about $32.6 million, without any accommodation for growth. In light of that, Hurst said planning for the 2019-20 school year will begin after the committee delivers its report.

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