Richland School District

2017 Bond Issue

Questions & Answers

February 12, 2017 - community member question

Q. I am wondering why do schools have to be torn down and replaced every 40 years? I've gone to many a school in my growing up years that were a lot older. I believe in upgrading, but not replacing the whole school.  

A. From Superintendent Rick Schulte.......

Over the last 20 years, I have had to tear down schools built in the 1960s, while remodeling and keeping schools built in the 1930s. There are a variety of reasons for this, and every school is different in terms of its construction style and changing needs. Here are a few things I've encountered over the years that contribute to this situation.

The state expects a new school to last 30 years before it is eligible for state matching funds for remodeling. However, the state only expects a remodeled school to last another 20 years before it needs either replacement or remodeling and is eligible again for state matching funds. Accordingly, the state matching criteria favor building a new school in lieu of modernization when the cost of remodeling is 70% or more of the cost of new construction.

Many schools built in the 1960s and 1970s were built fast at a time when rapid growth and the baby boom kids created a large demand for many new schools. Because so many schools were built so fast, and because some thought that the baby boom would be temporary and schools would not be needed very long, there was a strong emphasis on building schools for the short term at a low initial cost. This, in turn, produced designs that included flat roofs, outside doors instead of hallways, inefficient rooftop heating and cooling systems, gyms that had to serve as cafeterias, little insulation, and many other compromises intended to reduce the initial cost with little concern for eventual upgrades or replacement.

Moreover, during the past 30 to 40 years, there have been major changes to building codes governing schools. These revised codes cover many things including exits, handicapped access, electrical and mechanical systems, security, and hazardous materials like lead paint, asbestos, and PCB's. A most significant code upgrade has been to the seismic strength of buildings and bringing current buildings up to those new seismic standards is either extremely expensive or in some cases impossible. We are also required to meet the Washington Sustainable Schools Protocol which includes many energy saving and environmentally necessary design features that are very difficult to incorporate into an existing school without gutting the interior and starting over, but then being stuck with an inefficient floor plan.

There have been a number of school design features that were once popular that have fallen out of favor. Many of these were only popular for a short time before they were effectively discarded. Once they were incorporated into the school design, it became nearly impossible to change that design. One example of this was the use of "open concept" classrooms without walls between rooms which was used at the old Marcus Whitman, Sacajawea, and Lewis and Clark. Versions of this design were common throughout that period and the design was not found to be successful. Building a new school is the only way to efficiently correct those old design flaws.

There are other reasons for building new schools in lieu of modernization such as changing technology needs, electrical systems, HVAC systems, unique student needs, and material types. However, the examples listed above are the most significant reasons for the relatively short life span of schools during a particular era of school construction.


February 9, 2017 - community member question

Q. Will legislative changes enacted to implement the McCleary decision affect the RSD's need for a bond proposal? The interplay between the operating levies, bond property taxes, and potential legislative changes is confusing. Under either the Republican or Democratic proposals, is it correct to say that increased state funding per student does not build educational and support facilities? In other words, do we need a bond issue either way? 

A. From Superintendent Rick Schulte.......

If the legislature provides additional funds as part of the McCleary decision, all of those funds will be for the operating budget and none will be available for capital projects and construction. The McCleary decision did not consider construction and school facilities though some have argued that a new suit should be filed to force full state funding of all needed classrooms. As far as I know, no one is pursuing that kind of suit and, if they did, we could expect it to take many years (McCleary was first filed some 10 years ago).

The major remaining requirement from the McCleary decision is for the legislature to fully pay all staff compensation costs (salaries, wages, and benefits for certificated, classified, and administrative staff) instead of allowing local districts to negotiate and pay some of these costs from local levies. These proposals seek to use new state money to raise state-funded salaries, wages, and benefits while reducing local levies now used to pay for these items. There are quite a few versions in different bills about how to do this, and you are correct that none of these will have any effect on our bond proposal.

There are several proposals now before the legislature that would increase the total amount of money available as state matching funds for new school construction. This is separate from McCleary and it is mainly targeted at adding kindergarten and grades 1 – 3 classrooms due to the already funded class size reductions. The challenge is that there is no agreement on how to pay for increased state funding of construction. Without a funding source, it seems unlikely the legislature will be able to increase state matching funds for school construction. The last legislative session provided some small added funding for new construction for K – 3 classrooms, but this was contingent on local districts having already passed local bond elections to build schools.


February 8, 2017 - community member question

Q. What is the plan for Badger Mountain and Tapteal Elementary students during demolition and construction? Will they continue to go to go to their school or will they be temporarily relocated? If relocated where?

A. From Superintendent Rick Schulte.......

Badger Mountain students will be relocated for one year to one of the additional elementary schools that will be built. This will allow us to demolish the current Badger Mountain and build the new Badger in the same location as the existing school. The Badger Mountain site is very limited due to a variety of utility easements that restrict location of the new Badger.

We are not yet finished planning the exact location of the new Tapteal Elementary. If there is suitable space on the current property that would allow new construction with the existing school still in use, then we will do that as we did at Lewis & Clark and Sacajawea. If our analysis shows that this is not feasible, then we will do the same thing for Tapteal that I described above at Badger.  


February 3, 2017 - community member question

Q. Why is it the obligation of the Richland School District to upgrade the Richland High auditorium?

A. From Superintendent Rick Schulte.......

The auditorium at Richland HS is primarily a school facility, one that also allows community use when not in use by the school. The auditorium is used for music and drama performances by a number of schools, but also as a site for large group training and certain kinds of meetings. The state provides school districts state funding as a match to local expenses for this auditorium. We estimate the state will pay about 40% of the renovation cost. Community users typically pay a user fee on a sliding scale based on a variety of factors including whether or not they charge an entrance fee.

February 2, 2017 - community member question

Q. Why does the RSD need $10 million for a new administration building? This seems too costly.

A. From Superintendent Rick Schulte.......

A new administration building must be significantly larger than the current 1947 version. We need all of our central administration departments together again so we can work more efficiently. The current 70 year-old-building is way too small for that. Our Teaching & Curriculum Department and our Special Programs Department cannot fit in here so the District pays for rental space on Wright Avenue and also on Bradley Boulevard to house these departments. That is not efficient.

The bathrooms frequently fail. The heating and cooling systems frequently fail. Parking is inadequate. The building lacks many health and safety features necessary for a large office space, including sprinklers, earthquake measures, and protection from violent visitors. There are no private rooms for confidential meetings. There is no room for storage of personnel records. There are no training rooms or meeting rooms. We regularly rent space in hotels and other places to satisfy our space needs.

We are estimating a $250 cost per square foot whcih includes all costs from design to sales tax to construction, which is less than the cost of the schools we are building. We need 40,000 square feet which is 18,000 square feet smaller than the Kennewick administration building.

The new administration building will be a cost effective, efficient service center that will improve communication, planning, and coordination. It will offer important training space for teachers and other staff. It will allow public participation in school board deliberations. A new administration building will be in use for 50 years. This is a good investment for the community. Now is the right time, taking advantage of low interest rates and low construction costs.

February 1, 2017 - community member question

Q. I have a concern that $10M is slated for Fran Rish Stadium and only $6M for the Hanford High athletic field improvements. Having gone to most of the home games at Fran Rish, I felt the home side bleachers were in decent shape and could go a few more years. However, Hanford is deserving of their own stadium, particularly with the growth of the area and number of students. I applaud the planned improvements for Hanford High, but I feel the emphasis should be reversed—$10M for Hanford and $6M for Fran Rish.

A. From Superintendent Rick Schulte.......

Thanks for sharing your point of view on the two stadium upgrades. The rationale for the home side improvements at Fran Rish was based on 1) safety concerns for the concrete bleachers due to seismic failure; 2) lack of handicapped accessible bleacher seating with a growing demand for such accessibility; 3) leaks, mold, and other failures in the restrooms and locker rooms even after several repairs; 4) resurfacing of the track; 5) replacing the grass field with field turf that can be used as often as desired, every day, all year, by multiple teams and sports; and 6) a desire to maintain the same number of seats on the home side (3,900), which can fill during major football games. The cost of the Fran Rish upgrades include the cost of demolishing the concrete bleachers.

The rationale for the athletic field upgrade at Hanford High was based on 1) needed bleacher seating sufficient to handle all of Hanford’s 2,000 students; it was deemed unlikely that Hanford would need more than this number of seats since varsity football games would remain at Fran Rish;  2) need for restrooms to replace port-a-potties; 3) need for concessions; 4) resurfacing the track; 5) replacing the grass field with field turf that can be used for many events as well as marching band practice.

We do not believe the district needs two stadiums seating as many as Fran Rish is capable of handling. Even Fran Rish needs that number of seats for relatively few events each year.

The district has also been in conversations with WSU Tri-Cities about a cooperative arrangement for the HHS athletic fields. If the bond passes, we will continue those discussions which could result in additional amenities at the field that would serve both the high school and WSU.


February 1, 2017 - community member question

Q. The amount for Hanford High sports that mostly for practices?  What sports will be using it, and what does it allow them to do that they can't do now? Is the south Richland Elementary site identified and the school construction part of this bond? Are Badger Mountain and Tapteal being torn down and completely rebuilt? Have you decided in what order these projects will take place? 

A. From Superintendent Rick Schulte.......

The Hanford High athletic field would be used 1) during the day for P.E. classes; 2) to host all boy and girls soccer games....from varsity through freshmen; 3) for marching band practices, an advantage made possible by having permanent lines to guide the band; 4) for football below the varsity level; 5) for expected future additions of lacrosse; 6) for any youth or community sports group during times it is not used by the school. WSU Tri-Cities is interested in possibly assisting with additional field amenities for intramurals and Division III sports.

This bond will pay for two new elementary schools. One elementary school will be built on Belmont Boulevard in West Richland. The District has property in south Richland for an additional elementary and we are looking for other potential sites.

Yes, both Tapteal and Badger will be demolished and replaced on the existing sites. These two schools will be over 40 years old when replaced, which is ten years beyond the state’s usual modernization or replacement cycle. The two schools qualify for state funding based on what is called, “new schools in lieu of modernization,” since the cost of renovation would not be justified by the expected extension of their life expectancy.

The first projects to get underway will be the new elementary schools since they qualify for the most state matching money and because at least one of the new schools will be used as temporary housing for Badger students while that school is replaced. The same may happen for Tapteal. The next two projects will be the new Badger and Tapteal. The timing of the stadium, auditorium, and district projects has not been determined and will depend in part on when we receive the state matching funds.

Q. Are there any existing RSD bonds coming off the tax rolls soon which will help offset this proposed tax rate increase?

Yes, the District has these bonds coming off the tax rolls in the next six years:

  • December 2017 – bonds from the 1997 election
  • December 2020 – bonds from the 2003 election
  • December 2022 – bonds from the 2003 election


Q. Is there a need for two additional elementary schools at the present time?

A. From Superintendent Rick Schulte.......

  • More students and lower class sizes require more classrooms.
  • Overall RSD enrollment has grown by 2,000 students since 2012.
  • Enrollment is projected to increase another 2,000 students by 2021....taking RSD from 13,200 to 15,200 (increase of 15%).
  • The 10 existing elementary schools have 246 classrooms; even with moderate enrollment growth, we will need 47 more classrooms by 2019.
  • The district expects to qualify for full state matching funds for two new elementary schools. Even if enrollment growth slows, it will only delay the need for new elementary schools by one or two years.

    “It’s no secret that Richland and West Richland are growing. New housing developments and apartments are going up and there are plans for more.”  - Superintendent Rick Schulte

Q. Why is the Richland High School auditorium on the 2017 bond issue?

A. From Superintendent Rick Schulte.......

The 35-year-old auditorium is inadequate for both school and community groups such as the Mid-Columbia Ballet’s annual production of The Nutcracker. The outdated auditorium will be brought up to code. The Richland School District will receive four million dollars in state assistance money for the auditorium project. The improvements list includes…..

  • Add restroom facilities  (800 more square feet)
  • Add handicapped seating and access
  • Add a center aisle to eliminate the current safety hazard
  • Replace stage curtains, riggings, and wood floor
  • Replace orchestra pit cover
  • Replace sound system, lighting and lighting controls
  • Replace 1,500 seats (250 will have folding tablet arms)
  • Modernize all mechanical and electrical systems
  • Replace auditorium doors, hardware, window wall systems, and security grills
  • Add six water fountains
  • Construct new vestibule(s)
  • Re-roof main building
  • Insulate exterior walls to comply with energy code
  • Remove and replace all finishes


Q. Why is a District preschool center needed?

The Richland School District hosts as many as 15 preschool programs scattered through our elementary schools. These preschool programs include classes for Developmentally Delayed children ages 3 to 5 who qualify for special education, as well as the federal and state-funded preschools of Head Start and ECEAP (Early Childhood Education Assistance Program).

By consolidating these programs into a single building (renovation of the 1982 Jefferson wing) we will realize several benefits. First, when these classes are all together in one place they will be able to share equipment and facilities such as pre-school playgrounds and specialized classroom resources and professional development for teachers with a common student age group. Second, we will then free up that many classrooms in other elementary schools for classes in grades K – 5, thereby reducing the need for additional classrooms in portables or additional buildings.


Q. What specific upgrades will be made at Fran Rish Stadium?

  • The home side bleachers, locker rooms, and restrooms do not meet health and safety codes.
  • The track needs resurfacing and recent patches are only temporary.
  • The grass field can only host about 10 varsity football games per year and cannot host any playoff games.
  • An artificial surface field (see safety study below) can be used 12 hours a day all year long and is expected to host football, soccer, lacrosse, marching band, PE, and other events.

“Replacing grass with field turf would be a very positive change for students. No longer would our P.E. classes, marching band, and sports teams be restricted from using the surface.”  - Mike Edwards, RHS athletic director

January 2017 Study - Safety of Crumb Rubber Field Turf Surfaces

Fran Rish Upgrades cost estimate detail


Q. Why are replacement of Badger Mountain and Tapteal Elementary Schools on the bond issue?

The two schools were built in 1978. Both are out of date, too small, and not up to current code. It’s time to provide Badger Mountain and Tapteal students with the same up-to-date educational facilities as our recently completed schools such as Marcus Whitman and Orchard.

Status of Badger Mountain and Tapteal – November 2016:

  • Electrical and mechanical systems are failing; last year, RSD spent over $200,000 in labor/materials for repairs at each school. 
  • 1978 electrical wiring cannot handle the educational requirements of 21st century learners.
  • Handicapped access is inadequate.
  • Fire safety and air quality systems need to be upgraded.
  • Roofs leak due to old age.
  • Number of classrooms is inadequate; adding more portables is not the answer.

With ongoing population growth in south and West Richland, the current Badger Mountain and Tapteal are undersized at 48,000 square feet; the new buildings will be significantly larger (around 65,000 sf) providing the necessary instructional space for smaller class sizes, full day kindergarten, and more special education classrooms.

The new Badger Mountain and Tapteal will:

  • Have a separate gym and commons area.
  • Have designated rooms for art, music, and special education services.
  • Meet current seismic codes.
  • Be more secure – front entrances will have secure vestibules for visitor check in; no exterior classroom doors.


Q. What specific upgrades will be made at the Hanford High School athletic field?

  • Need bleacher seating for entire student body (2,000).
  • Need restrooms and concession stand.
  • Need a field turf surface to host 150 events per year including P.E. classes and marching band.
  • The track needs resurfacing.
  • There is potential for a cooperative stadium project with WSU Tri-Cities.

Installing artificial turf, restrooms, bleachers, and concession stands will allow the Richland School District and Hanford High School to develop more community partnerships while meeting the educational needs of our students.”  - Eric Davis, HHS Athletic Director


Q. Why has the District decided not to place a third high school on the 2017 bond issue?

A. From Superintendent Rick Schulte.......

  • The district recently purchased land for a third high school. The 70 acre parcel is located in West Richland right next to Leona Libby Middle School.
  • The district depends on state matching funds in order to build new schools. State matching funds account for as much as 45% of the cost of a new school. For a new, third high school in the Richland School District, this could be $45,000,000 or more of state money. The district will not be eligible for sufficient state match funds for a new high school until sometime in the 2022 to 2025 time frame.
  • In the meantime, the school district is preparing to construct and install 12 new classrooms at both Richland HS and Hanford HS. These will be modular buildings with interior halls and restrooms similar to the building at HomeLink next to Jason Lee Elementary. We expect these buildings to open in time for the opening of school in September 2017, adding a total of 24 classrooms to the two high schools.
  • The school board has had a number of discussions regarding construction timelines for a new high school. The board has considered this need as part of its long-term facility plans, and the board’s commitment to maintaining an affordable, relatively consistent tax rate. Current board discussion has focused on a 2021 bond election for a new high school. This will allow the school district to qualify for all the state matching funds we need for this high school.


Field Turf Information:   This is the Federal EPA site.  Because of the need for additional information, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) are launching a multi-agency action plan to study key environmental human health questions. 

Background Statement:  “Concerns have been raised by the public about the safety of recycled tire crumb used in playing fields and playgrounds in the United States. Limited studies have not shown an elevated health risk from playing on fields with tire crumb, but the existing studies do not comprehensively evaluate the concerns about health risks from exposure to tire crumb.”   Often cited NY State Report on study of health affects rubber in athletic fields;

Synopsis:   “Our review of the available information on crumb rubber and crumb rubber infilled turf fields indicates that ingestion, dermal or inhalation exposures to chemicals in or released from crumb rubber do not pose a significant public health concern.”    Lead dust in fields  synopsis:  “The risk for harmful lead exposure is low from new fields with elevated lead levels in their turf fibers because the turf fibers are still intact and the lead is unlikely to be available for harmful exposures to occur.”