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Schools OK modular buy

The several months-long debate over how Wasco County School District 21 should attempt to relieve the pressure put on county schools by the state-mandated change to all-day kindergarten next year has finally been decided.

In a special meeting that took place Tuesday, Dec. 17, the board passed a motion to purchase four modular buildings, each containing two classrooms, which will be delivered to the district on a schedule yet to be determined.

At the board’s regular session Thursday, Dec. 12, Operations Director Dennis Whitehouse told the board that if a decision wasn’t made soon, they could be forced to scrap current plans to transition the district to all day kindergarten by fall 2014.

“The only way we’re going to be able to accomplish what we need to in time for next year is if we decide to go with the modulars,” Whitehouse said. “That’s just really all there is to it.”

Board member John Nelson raised the question of whether it would be more appropriate to place a metal building, another alternative option the board had previously discussed, on one school campus while using modulars on another.

“Yes, however when you construct a metal building, the decision becomes a lot more permanent,” Whitehouse said. “Modular buildings give you the option to take them away and replace them with a stick-built building later. At Dry Hollow, for example, it would be very difficult to place a metal building there and, even if we did, it would severely limit future expansion opportunities.”

The planning that would be required to place a metal building at Chenowith or Dry Hollow Elementary would also take a considerable amount of time, Whitehouse said. Time and, perhaps most notably, money the district does not currently have at its disposal.

“If we’re going to go ahead with this decision,” Whitehouse said, “we should do so now so we can get it done the right way and not end up spending any more than we need to.”

If the district gets the purchase order in by Dec. 31, they will be subject to 2013 pricing rather than the steeper 2014 for a total savings of $30,000.

Due to the district’s budgetary concerns, the special board meeting was called and the motion to approve the purchase of four modular buildings was passed on Tuesday. As a result of this action, the district will be able to purchase the modulars for about $104,000 each.

According to Whitehouse, while this figure includes the cost of data wiring, it is important to note that it does not encompass flooring.

“Each of the modular buildings,” Whitehouse said, “will contain two classrooms. One of the two will be wired for 12 computers, while the other will be wired for 30.”

Each of the classrooms with additional wiring will cost $3,135 more to the district. However, Whitehouse says that it is considerably “more economical to undergo the additional cost of extra wiring now rather than have to go back and try to do it later, especially since it will allow one of the classrooms in each building to be used as a functioning computer lab.”

These figures, Whitehouse said, are based on what he called a “competitive process done by Intermountain ESD,” through which the district will buy the modulars via a “cooperative purchasing agreement.”

In order to create the additional classroom space needed to accommodate the extra students generated by the switch to all-day kindergarten, two of these modular buildings will be placed at Chenowith and Dry Hollow Elementary each.

“As we move further along in the process, we’ll be looking into getting conditional use permits from the city and other related materials in preparation for the coming school year as well,” Whitehouse said. “We needed to move forward on this and we did, and that’s going to pay off in the long run.”

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