District looks at where to move preschool program

Moving it from Blue Ridge would free up space to serve additional elementary school students.

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WALLA WALLA -- Walla Walla Public Schools continues to look for a new home for the state and federal preschool program based at Blue Ridge Elementary School.

If it moves, the Head Start/ECEAP public preschool program that is housed at Blue Ridge would free up space at, allowing the school to serve additional elementary school students.

The district is exploring moving the preschool operation to a modular facility on the Blue Ridge grounds but outside the main school building.

The board reviewed preliminary designs of such a project and the potential cost during a public work session Tuesday.

A current proposal would move the preschool program to a modular building on the northeast corner of the school grounds. The move would free enough space for Blue Ridge to serve an additional section of classes for each grade.

The proposed facility would cost about $3 million; it would measure 17,000 square feet, and include 12 classrooms, a multi-purpose room, and office space for staff.

The School Board is exploring its options, including figuring out where the funding would come from. Money for the facility's construction could come from non-voted debt to be paid over time; from seeking a capital levy or bond; or using some district reserves for part of the cost.

Funding decisions have to be made.

The district's Facilities Support Director Dan Johnson told the School Board the project could take six months to build, once the funding is determined and secured.

District Communications Director Mark Higgins said the preschool plans are in a preliminary discussion phase.

A discussion on how many students would be affected, and where the additional enrollment for Blue Ridge would come from, would likely be the next phase of the discussion.

Higgins said there is a definite need to give the preschool program its own facility, but that keeping it near an elementary school makes sense. Children would have shared use of Blue Ridge's kitchen facilities and playgrounds.

The board had called for preliminary designs of what a new preschool would look like, where it would be situated and how much a potential project would cost. Further discussion, including the priority of the project compared to other district needs, or where the funding would come from, has yet to take place.

"It's a conversation we're starting to have," Higgins said.

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