Falls City has long list of wants, needs

FALLS CITY — The group of people who showed up at a second informational meeting Monday about a proposed tax levy to build a gym at Falls City Elementary School was small.

But the list of ideas it came up with about what the facility should offer was lengthy.

Falls City School District is considering placing a bond measure on the ballot, possibly in May 2016, to build a new gym. It’s also hoping to be approved for a grant from the state to double what is collected through the bond, if it passes. It will find out in January if the grant is a possibility.

Superintendent Jack Thompson led the discussion Monday night — with only three people in attendance — dividing suggestions into “needs” and “wants.”

Needs included: a secure space for elementary physical education classes; an indoor recess facility; a high-school size basketball and volleyball court, which would also provide additional practice space and a shelter in a natural disaster, such as an earthquake; bleachers; and parking.

To the first need, Art Houghtaling, Falls City elementary principal, said rainy and cold days that are common make P.E. and recess uncomfortable.

“Today would have been a great day to be inside playing instead of in the pouring rain,” he said.

Thompson added outdoor-only facilities could be dangerous if there’s ice or snow on the ground.

Also, limited gym space — now only available at Falls City High School — makes team practice schedules run late into the night, said Amy Houghtaling, the district’s FACES after-school program director.

She noted that in the case of a major natural disaster, the community center on North Main Street would not be sufficient, nor would it provide kitchen and shower facilities that could be needed.

Thompson said on the list of needs should be a design that is easy to clean and maintain. He said the district should consider placing some urgent deferred maintenance projects at current buildings in the needs category, as well.

On the list of “wants” were: a kitchen upgrade; place for a washer and dryer; additional classroom space; a music room; locker rooms; space for additional FACES activities; and a snack bar.

Thompson said the kitchen in the elementary school where all meals are prepared will be too small if enrollment keeps growing.

The kitchen has two convection ovens and no commercial dish washer, so washing dishes takes two hours.

A new kitchen with up-to-date appliances could serve more meals quicker, said Art Houghtaling.

“It would definitely improve our program, make it more efficient,” he said.

Thompson also wanted to get an idea of what tax rate would be acceptable to community members, which would give the district an approximate amount of money it could spend.

“When you talk to an architect, you need to know which road you want to go down,” he said.

With such a small sampling of the community, it was suggested the district take that question to an event where a wider spectrum of citizens would attend.

A basketball game or the community Thanksgiving dinner scheduled for later this month was suggested.

Ricardo Becerril, a consultant with Compass Project Solutions, said the next step in the process was to interview architects to work on the project.

Once the district narrows down a cost range and must-haves for the facility, the architect can take that direction and create a renderings for people to see, Thompson said.

For more information, or to provide feedback, contact Thompson at 503-787-3521.

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