During my first year as superintendent in the 2015-2016 school year, the Centralia School District established a facility review committee to research our buildings in preparation for a push to pass a school bond the following year. That year, 60 ambitious and respected committee members met throughout the months of May and June and fully endorsed the concept of new schools, a new configuration for elementary schools (K-6) and a call to action for the community.
That summer, many individuals helped develop the concept for cost, size, and the tax amounts the community would be asked to consider. A resolution passed in the fall of 2016 and the district registered for the 2017 February election. The bond request was for $74 million with an estimate of slightly over $25 million in matching dollars from the state.
Those amounts would build two new elementary schools, on-site, at Jefferson-Lincoln and Fords Prairie. It would also finance a complete like-new modernization of Centralia High School, which was built in 1968. All of our district schools scored low in their facility functionality rating except for the middle school. The group of citizens and the district chose to go with these three schools.
On that day in 2017, our bond passed with a 61.8% approval vote. Now the work became a reality. We started first by deciding to choose a General Contractor/Construction Manager Model (GCCM). We needed to secure advisors for this work and hired OAC as our construction project managers.
They have done an excellent job for us from day one to completion. They assisted us with the hiring of our two architects, BCRA and BLRB. BCRA designed the two elementary schools and have done a magnificent job in breathing life into our dream. One of the founders of BLRB designed our original high school and were eager to continue that legacy. The high school will partially open this September when students and staff return to a brand-new education wing. Work will officially wrap up in April 2020. We are equally pleased with the high school work.
On Saturday, we will celebrate the grand opening of Jefferson Lincoln and Fords Prairie and we are inviting the entire community to the ribbon cutting ceremonies. We begin at 10:30 a.m. Jefferson-Lincoln elementary school and open our second school, Fords Prairie elementary school at 1 p.m. on the same day. Our celebration will include tours of both new schools. These are the first completely new school buildings constructed in Centralia in more than 50 years.
Lastly, I remember something that was repeated often during the campaign before the Valentine’s Day vote. We often stated, “The state doesn’t build, communities do. As in our past, when towns pulled together to bring materials and strong backs to construct the local schoolhouses, this too was our responsibility.” It is for our kids and their futures that we passed this Bond. You all made this happen.
Thanks for supporting a new day for our schools and community.
Mark Davalos is the superintendent of the Centralia School District.