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May 12, 2016

Budget Update - K-3 Class Size Grant Announcement

The state transition to funding all-day kindergarten and also funding lower class sizes at grades K-3 has left most school districts scrambling to figure out how to add and fund additional classroom space.  Kennewick has been adding portables at many of our elementary schools to try and keep up with growth, full-day kindergarten, and class-size reduction.

In the 2015-17 state biennium budget, the legislature set aside $200M to assist school districts with meeting classroom space needs for grades K-3. An additional $34M was recently added during the legislative session just completed for a total grant pool of $234M.

In order for school districts to be considered for a grant award, an inventory of elementary classroom space needed to be completed. Our district inventory was completed last fall and reviewed by OSPI.  Each school district was then ranked based on their classroom need combined with other factors that included K-3 enrollment and district poverty level. 

OSPI recently notified twenty-one school districts that they were awarded preliminary K-3 Class Size Grant funding. Kennewick School District was awarded $51.1M of the $234M total. 

We will be learning more over the next few weeks on the specifics around the use of these funds. We do know that the funds are only for the addition/construction of classroom space that will ultimately impact K-3 class size. The grant is applied to projects based on a per classroom allocation, approximately $575K per classroom. The funding is not available to purchase portables. The district is required to provide $7.0M in matching funds.  We expect the timeline for using the grant funds will be over the next 2-4 years.

The construction of Sage Crest Elementary, set to open in August 2016, and Westgate Elementary, set to open in August 2017, are not eligible for the grant funds. Those projects are already partially funded through the state matching assistance program, with funds from the 2015 voter approved $89.5M bond covering the remainder.

However, the grant could possibly be used to fund the construction of Elementary 16. Elementary 16 will be built on the Clearwater Creek site west of Steptoe Street, and is scheduled to open August 2018. 

If Elementary 16 were to be built to have 30 classrooms, then the grant could fund 30 x $575K or $17.25M of a total estimated project cost of $22.0M. This would still leave $34.0M in grant funds for other classroom space construction throughout the district. Other construction might be in the form of adding an 8 -12 classroom wing on to some of our older elementary buildings.

We recommended that the District accept all $51.1 M in funding, and the Board adopted that recommendation.  Information gathered from OPSI regarding the parameters pertaining to the grant was discussed with the Board of Directors on May 11, in addition to potential project ideas. Over the next few months, the Board of Directors will be evaluating and deciding  on projects to be funded by the grant.

We are excited about the opportunity this grant provides.  However, we remain cautious of the grant award amount being changed by OSPI, limitations on the timeline for the use of the funds, or restrictions on the types of projects that can be built. It will not be until the end of May that OSPI will finalize all the grant awards. 

The District will be adding a webpage in the next week or so to track progress on the grant projects, answer questions regarding this grant, and provide a Frequently Asked Questions forum.  More information about this will come out in the next few weeks.

Vic Roberts
Director of Business Operations

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