Board hopes to save money by moving elementary students to high school

West Richland School District Board of Education discussed the possibility Monday of housing students in one building next year during its monthly meeting.

Following a more than three-hour executive session, the board voted to direct Interim Superintendents Donald Haile and Rod Stover to research placing students under one roof. Haile said he and Stover will be forming a committee to research the idea.

The board was 6-1 with board member Carolyne Brooks abstaining because she wanted more information.

President Steve Kinkade said he and the superintendents have discussed the possibility of having all students be located at West Richland Junior-Senior High School starting during the 2014-2015 school year.

Kinkade said all vocational and elective classes for junior-high and high-school students would have to be cut.

Board member Jeff Runyon said he looked at a copy of the blueprints of WRHS and said enough room could be made to house the elementary-school students and not have to do away with all vocational and elective classes.

Stover said there is only a basic recommendation from the district architect at this point.

Kinkade estimated it will cost approximately $100,000 to retrofit the building for elementary students and that it would save the district between $450,000 to $500,000 per year to have students in one building. The figure includes possible staff cuts, he said.

Staff cuts would result in approximately half of the savings, Kinkade said. He added that he does not want to lose any staff or classes, but that the district has been directed to have school next year as opposed to annexing with East Richland and that tough decisions have to be made.

He said a decision will need to be made by January or February, at the latest. If there is a Reduction in Force (RIF), it would have to be done in March.

Runyon said there are many options to consider and he planned to share some ideas in executive session because some topics would include individual staff members, who cannot be discussed in open session. He said he could share numbers, but not specifics.

"Everyone needs open minds to this no matter what side you're on," he said.

He said the first thing to look at is "not to cut, cut, cut."

"How are you going to pay for it?" asked an audience member.

Another member of the audience wanted Runyon to share his plan. "Let's just keep it under the table. That's a good idea," she said.

An audience member asked how physical-education classes would be handled with only one gymnasium.

Stover said the district architect is researching the possibility of a having a multi-purpose room for younger students.

Kinkade said that, "Basically, the east end of the school (WRHS) would the elementary school." He said eight classes would have to be moved from West Richland Elementary School to the junior-senior high school.

"This is just the start of it," Kinkade said of the process.

Prior to executive session, Haile said the board is being asked to consider the one campus concept. He said the board may not want to pursue that idea, but that the public has directed the district to have school next year as opposed to annexing with East Richland.

He said the district still has to pay its bills and provide an education to students.

Brooks said the district also has a mission to continue providing a quality educational environment, which she noted can sometimes be tricky with the issues the district is facing.

Stover said there is hope that the state's matching maintenance grant will be available in the spring, which could help pay for half of the costs of remodeling WRHS. "This is not something we can hastily do," he said.

In other business:

• The Fiscal Year 2014 budget was approved.

Revenue is anticipated to be $3,155,041 and expenditures are anticipated to be $3,600,351, leaving a deficit of $445,310.

• Resignations were approved from bus drivers Terry Herman and Larry Knowlton.

Steve Burgener and Shari McDowell were hired as bus drivers.

• The board authorized the superintendents to seek fuel bids.

• The board approved repaying a $4,000 loan from Capital Outlay back to the Working Cash Fund, paying utilities from the Operation and Maintenance Fund and paying Fire Life Safety salary and benefits from Fund 90, retroactive to July 1, 2013.

• An application was approved for Recognition of Schools.

• An FFA trip was approved to the FFA National Convention in Louisville, Ky., from Oct. 28-31.

The FFA Parliamentary Procedures team will be competing in the National Parliamentary Procedures competition since the team won the state competition.

(Note: All votes are unanimous unless indicated otherwise. Board members include board President Steve Kinkade, Dennis Anderson, Darin Blank, Carolyne Brooks, Lisa Hemrich, Jeff Runyon and Aaron Wease.)

Kevin Ryden can be reached at