The Morton School District will put a $24.5 million bond proposal on the February 2022 ballot to replace the district’s failing elementary school and condemned bus barn with new structures at the junior-senior high school campus, the school board decided last week.
The bond would also fund renovations to the junior-senior high school, specifically to add ventilation and electrical capacity to the career and technical education (CTE) classroom.
Instead of building a new elementary school, the district’s plan is to attach an elementary wing onto the existing junior-senior high school building, with separate entrances and student areas for the two schools.
The renovation plan is based on an architectural and engineering study of district facilities and includes input from community members through a community survey and a community-based facilities planning group, according to the school district.
The Morton School Board voted unanimously during a Nov. 29 meeting to put the bond proposal on the ballot for Morton voters in the Feb. 22, 2022, special election.
Ten Morton community members gave public comments in support of the bond at the school board’s Nov. 29 meeting, according to coverage by The East County Journal, but wanted the board to come up with a plan for preserving the existing elementary school.
“The school board is carefully considering plans for this building. They know that members of the community want to ensure that it is preserved, and they are evaluating the needs of elementary students now and growth for the future — the school opened with 100 more students than anticipated this fall,” said the Morton School District in a Nov. 16 Facebook post.
Morton Elementary School was built in 1948 and has had no major remodels since the original construction. The building isn’t compliant with seismic and energy codes. An architect’s assessment of the building in July revealed a myriad of other problems, including asbestos and lead in some building materials, extensive leaks and a need to replace the roof as well as plumping, electrical and HVAC systems.
The estimated cost of bringing the elementary up to code is $13 million — about $5 million more than the cost of building an elementary wing at the junior-senior high school, according to the school district.
“They want to save (the elementary school) as does the board and I. The funding to do that will take time and probably partners, grants and some unknown help we haven’t thought of yet. The timing for that to occur and meet the safety needs and immediate needs unfortunately do not align,” said Superintendent John Hannah after last Monday’s school board meeting to The East County Journal.
An architect’s analysis of the Morton School District’s bus barn earlier this year confirmed the building was in severe disrepair and unsafe to continue using.
Buses currently park on the north side of the structure — but doing that infringes on neighboring Alta Forest Products’ manufacturing facility, and there’s nowhere for the bus mechanic to safely work on the buses. The district’s proposal would fund a new bus maintenance facility on the junior-senior high school grounds.
The Morton School District last proposed a bond, a $10.5 million ask, in April 2017 to renovate the junior-senior high school so it could accommodate elementary students and a bus barn. It failed to reach the 60% voter approval rate needed to pass. The measure had 54.26% of the vote, or 325 votes, in favor and 45.74%, or 274 votes, against, according to previous reporting in The Chronicle.
More information on the proposed bond and the district’s facilities plan is available at www.morton.k12.wa.us/o/morton-school-district/page/facility-information.
Anyone with specific questions is encouraged to contact the district office at 360-496-5300.