Tri-Cities public school districts continue to keep a close watch on their student enrollment numbers to best plan for future growth.
In Pasco, construction has begun on a third comprehensive high school, while plans are being developed for a possible third comprehensive high school in West Richland.
Kennewick voters approved a three-year levy in February, and projects from its last bond have largely been completed.
Here is a look at what’s happening around the region:
Pasco School District
The Pasco School District welcomed 18,795 students for the 2023-24 school year.
The district, which oversees a general operating budget of $313.4 million, was finishing up previous bond-approved projects earlier this year.
Its transportation facility and maintenance bay was completed in spring 2023.
The two projects were a combined $3 million ($1.6 million for the maintenance bay, $1.4 for the transportation facility). The buildings are 29,997 square feet.
The updates added two pull-through bus mechanic bays and improvements to the current maintenance facility.
The transportation facility is a new building to replace the old transportation office and drivers’ area.
These projects were part of the 2017 voter-approved bond.
In February 2023, voters approved the latest bond measure.
The biggest project in that bond is a third comprehensive high school, which will house 2,000 students and be 299,413 square feet.
It will be built on land that the district owns. Construction started in July 2023.
The project, which costs $185.3 million, has a planned opening in fall 2025.
Another project from the bond is a small, innovative high school called the Career and College Academy.
It is being developed with input from business and industry, families and students.
The project is in the planning stages, with a groundbreaking set for April 2024.
Cost is $37.9 million.
Plans are to open the 65,000-square-foot school – which should house 600 students – in fall 2025.
Another project will be $2 million for a softball field and facility improvements at Pasco High. Construction is set to begin in spring 2026, with completion in the fall the same year.
Currently, Pasco High softball players have to practice and play their contests at the softball complex near the HAPO Center.
A fourth project from the bond is the $12 million in career and technical education (CTE) enhancements and modernization of spaces at both Chiawana and Pasco high schools.
Finally, the bond earmarked $7.5 million to buy land for future school sites when they are needed.
Richland School District
The Richland School District has a projected enrollment figure of 13,720 students for the 2023-24 school year.
“Based on those numbers, our operating budget for the year will be $215 million. Keep in mind these numbers can change depending on actual enrollment,” said Shawna Dinh, public information officer for the district, in early September.
In February 2023, voters approved a $23 million, six-year capital projects levy.
The levy is paying for safety and other improvements at the district’s older schools, including more secure entrances and building layouts, as well as surveillance cameras and advanced security systems.
The schools being improved include Richland and Hanford high schools; Carmichael, Chief Joseph and Enterprise middle schools; and Jason Lee, White Bluffs and William Wiley elementary schools.
The elementary school improvements were completed in September 2023.
The middle school improvements are expected to be completed by September 2024, while the high school projects have a September 2025 completion date.
The levy also will pay to train staff on the new systems.
In addition, levy dollars will be used to develop plans and design (with costs to be determined) for a third comprehensive high school. NAC is the project architect.
The future third high school will be on Keene Road, near the district’s Teaching, Learning & Administration Center in West Richland.
The estimated capacity of the school will be 1,800 students, and the design is expected to be completed by December 2024.
Levy dollars also are being used for the development and design of a joint campus facility for River’s Edge High School and Pacific Crest Online Academy.
Design West Architects is the project architect, and the completion of this work is expected to be in May 2026. Officials expect the building’s student capacity to be 400.
An addition is planned at Three Rivers HomeLink. Design West Architects is the project architect, and the completion of this work is expected to be in May 2024.
The district also has some facility improvements projects that either have been completed or are near completion.
The district built a $407,600 greenhouse at Richland High School to be used for agriculture classes. The 1,500-square-foot greenhouse was completed in August 2023. Design and construction were handled by PBS Engineering and MH Construction.
In September 2021, the district bought a two-story former church on the corner of Thayer Drive and Williams Boulevard.
A $265,300 remodel project has enabled the facility to function as additional instructional space for Three Rivers HomeLink, with plans to have it serve as flexible space for other schools and programs in the future.
Kennewick School District
The Kennewick School District’s enrollment numbers were close to 19,000 students in the 2022-23 school year.
“We are expecting the same for the 2023-24 school year,” said Robyn Chastain, executive director of communications and public relations for the district.
That would be an increase from the 2020-21 school year, when the district enrolled 18,574 students.
Currently, the general fund budget for the district is $320 million for 2023-24.
After two failed levies in 2022, voters approved a three-year, $72 million educational program and operations levy in February to help pay for student learning, security, maintenance and instructional support, as well as support for special education, athletics and extracurricular activities.
Meanwhile, the final projects from the last bond passed by voters have either been completed or are near completion.
The district finalized construction at Tri-Tech Skills Center.
The project, which cost an estimated $3.8 million, added two classrooms with adjoining lab space and support space for a total of 9,500 square feet.
Construction on the project started in October 2022 and was completed and ready for occupancy in August 2023.
The project was necessary to accommodate growth in the pre-veterinary tech and pre-electrical programs and also provided more suitable instructional space.
The replacement of Ridge View Elementary School is nearing completion and should be finished by December 2023.
The new 30-classroom building is replacing the former 20-classroom building on 13th Avenue in Kennewick.
This is the last project listed on the 2019 bond that was passed by voters, and it has an estimated cost of $31 million. Construction began in July 2022.
As part of the 2019 voter-approved bond, the district earmarked money to build Elementary #18, but only if it is needed.
At this point, it is not.
“The next bond will be dependent on the district’s enrollment and state construction assistance program funding,” Chastain said. “The district’s current enrollment and the state construction assistance program that relies on current and projected enrollment does not support the construction of a new elementary school.”