Richland school bond: A look inside an older building

<p>Shower Curtains At Marcus Whitman</p>

Shower Curtains At Marcus Whitman

We continue our look at the school bonds across our region that are on next week's ballot with a look at the Richland School District's $98 million bond proposal.

Educators in Richland say some elementary schools are decades old and just can't serve the needs of current students.

The bond proposal would pay for the replacement of three elementary schools (Lewis & Clark, Marcus Whitman, and Sacajawea), a new elementary school and a new middle school as well as other improvements across the district.

Educators say if the bond doesn't pass, it will be a challenge to improve student learning in current conditions.

Most classrooms at elementary schools are separated by doors - that's pretty typical.

But at Marcus Whitman Elementary School in Richland, many classes are separated by shower curtains.

"When you don't have a door to your classroom, you have to improvise" said Evan Newby, first grade teacher.

Teachers say the 42 year old school doesn't work anymore for today's students.

When the school was built in the early 1970s, educators thought it would be a good idea to keep some classrooms open, right next to each other without walls.

But that doesn't really work now.

"It's really the design of the building that's a huge problem" said Kim Guyette, library media specialist.

To keep students focused on their classes, teachers have built tall bookshelves to separate those spaces, and they use shower curtains as doors.

But that's creating air circulation problems, because the ventilation system wasn't built for multiple rooms.

"Somedays it can be 65 degrees in your classroom and your kids are getting their winter coats in the fall or even in the spring. Sometimes it is 80 degrees in the classroom" said Newby.

And because there's no drop space in the ceilings of those rooms, teachers have to run electrical wires and internet cables all over the ground.

"It's kind of a safety issue in that there's cords running on the floor" said Guyette.

The rest of the school is also short on space.

Storage rooms for teachers have been turned into other offices or small study halls.

The old music room has been turned into a cramped computer room.

And there's one classroom you can't get to without walking through another classroom that's usually filled with students.

"So it's really hard to get kids focused on learning" said Newby.

Teachers say they've done their best to make the space work, but they can't improvise much longer.

"It's been put to good use. And it's time to move on, it's time to rebuild" said Newby.

Richland residents are still paying for a $78 million bond that will be paid off in 2022.

The current $98 million bond proposal would cost residents an extra $34 dollars for every $100,000 of property value.

The bond would also pay for a new space for Three Rivers HomeLink.