Published October 19, 2012
Plans for new Olympia school put on holdLisa Pemberton, staff writer
Plans for a proposed new school in the Olympia School District are being put on a back burner due to lower-than-expected student enrollment, officials say.An intermediate school designed for students in grades 5-8 on the districts east side was part of the Capital Improvement Bond approved by voters on Feb. 14.In addition to creating a K-8 school campus at Centennial Elementary School, an idea officials said was popular in the community, the new school would have brought relief to projected overcrowding and growth at Centennial as well as the nearby Washington Middle School.But that expected population boom hasnt happened, thanks largely to the sluggish economy and weak housing market. While the numbers are up, theyre not as high as we had projected them to be in our 15-year master plan, spokesman Ryan Betz said.This week, the district sent a letter to Centennial and Washington families, saying officials will continue monitoring student counts, housing development and demographic information. But plans for the proposed intermediate school will be delayed for two years. We recognize that building a new school is a significant investment not only in constructing the facility but also in operating the school on an annual basis, Betz wrote in the letter. Due to this significant investment, we want to be as fiscally responsible with tax payer money as possible; which is why we are delaying the project for the time being.Meantime, construction will continue on other projects that were funded by the bond package, including a $20 million modernization at Garfield Elementary School and a brand new facility for the Olympia Regional Learning Academy.Both projects are in the design phase, and construction is expected to begin next summer or fall, Betz said.In addition, about $10 million worth of projects were finished during the summer including an expansion at Jefferson Middle School and new flooring, roofs and safety upgrades at numerous schools, according to Betz.