New Wapato elementary school

A conceptual design of the soon-to-be constructed elementary school in Wapato. The school will be built in land between Adams Elementary School and Wapato Middle School. (Wapato School District)

 Construction of a new elementary school in Wapato should start in the spring, school district officials said Tuesday.

Residents can get their first look at the school during a meeting at 6 p.m. Wednesday Wednesdayat Wapato Middle School, 1309 Kateri Lane. The nearly $14 million project is one of two classroom construction projects that will start this school year in the Lower Valley district.

This evening, district administrators and architects from Coeur d’Alene-based Architects West will answer questions from the public, as well as present conceptual designs of the school. The school district already had one drawing on its Twitter account Tuesday afternoon.

The district in April announced a nearly $14 million grant from the state’s K-3 Class-Size Reduction Construction Grant Program to build a new school. The program provides $200 million statewide for school districts demonstrating need in reducing student-to-teacher ratios. The school will be built on land between Adams Elementary School and Wapato Middle School.

Original plans called for the school to be ready for the 2017-18 school year. However, district spokesman Mike Balmelli said that timeline is no longer feasible as the bidding process will not begin until January. A contractor would be selected in February, with construction expected to begin in March.

Dan Murray, Wapato’s construction supervisor, said the project would take about a year to complete.

“In all likelihood, we wouldn’t open until the start of the 2018-19 school year,” added Murray.

The firm Architects West has a history with Wapato projects, as the architects designed Wapato High School and are working on the city’s Apas Goudy housing subdivision.

Before the new school opens, though, Adams will have four new classrooms. The school is part of a unique pilot program the Legislature authorized this year. Both Wapato and Toppenish join three other districts in the cross-laminated timber project, an alternate method to building new classrooms.

Under this format, contractors build the classrooms off-site using “mass timber” products, including cross-laminated timber. The material is considered strong and sturdy, can last as long as traditional buildings and reduces the carbon footprint of a building. The Legislature allocated $5.5 million for the five districts.

The four classrooms will be built elsewhere in October and completed in December. Just like the new elementary school, the classrooms are a result of Wapato attempting to meet the state’s requirements for reducing class sizes in K-3.

“The state is looking at it as an alternative building method for schools, rather than the regular construction design build or portables,” Murray said. “We’re kind of a pilot project, which will be interesting.”

Meanwhile, Wapato is already looking to the future, as administrators anticipate having to go out to voters for a new elementary school, likely to replace Satus Elementary, which was built in 1948. But such a ballot measure is likely seven to eight years away, Murray said.

“The district will begin the process to look for some land because with the placement of the new school, we don’t have the land for a new building,” he added. “They will have to look for land in the next few years.”