Ellensburg schools look to CWU for overcrowding solution


Hebeler Hall, which currently houses computer science departments, has been considered an option to be leased by the school district. Xander Fu/The Observer.

Daisy Perez, Scene Editor

A partnership between the Ellensburg School District and CWU to solve overcrowding within the school district could relieve taxpayers $20 million and also benefit student education majors.

Valley View, Mount Stuart and Lincoln elementary schools have the combined capacity to house about 1,100 students. There are 474 students over that maximum capacity, bringing the total up to 1,574 students. Enrollment in the elementary schools has increased 17 percent over the last five years and students continue to transfer into the district.

There are three options that the school board is considering to fix overcrowding. One option, according to Interim Superintendent Mike Nollan, could relieve taxpayers of $20 million. The option is to partner up with CWU and lease land and Hebeler Hall long term.

Hebeler Hall is about 33,000 square feet and currently houses the Computer Science program and the office of the Dean of the College of Arts and Humanities. The facility would be able to house 330 elementary students.

Dan Patton, principal of Mount Stuart Elementary School, said his facility currently holds 496 students, from kindergarten to fifth grade. The school is designed for only 350 students.

“We’re not meeting the state requirements for P.E. because we don’t have enough space to do that in the ways that the state wants it done,” Patton said.  

Patton has created three additional instructional spaces by dividing classes in two. The additional spaces are used for specialists who work with students K-3 who need extra educational support.

There are currently three portables at Mount Stuart Elementary School, which have a combined six classes. A fourth portable will be set on Mount Stuart Elementary School next year, but it will be the last portable the school can place on the property. In order to add space to combat the overcrowding issue, a combination of 22 portables have been added to the schools—the equivalent of an entire elementary school, as a temporary solution.

“There is land restriction that will come into play, but also our kitchen is not large enough to put out the amount of food needed for many more kids,” Patton said. “Just keeping the [food] warm and serving it and having the space to store the equipment… We will reach capacity when we have that last portable.”

The long-term lease with CWU for land and Hebeler Hall might be a potential solution to the overcrowding.  

Nollan described what a great opportunity it would also be for the early learning program education students to see professional teachers in action.

“No state universities currently have a training center,” Nollan said.

Dan Shissler, chair of the district school board, said that Hebeler Hall was once an elementary school and CWU used it as a teaching center for the student education majors.

“We are also interested in leasing or buying some land from CWU that is North of Helena to build a school,” Shissler said.

Two new schools could be built on that land and Hebeler Hall would be a bonus that the school board and Nollan would be glad to have.

Nollan discussed this potential option with Dean of the College of Education and Professional Studies Paul Ballard, Executive Director of CWU’s School of Education  Ron Jacobson and Vice President of Operations Joseph Han in hopes that they can encourage the provost to turn this idea into action.

Jacobson and Han both stated that they are open to several options. They declined to comment further because it is only “preliminary thinking” at this moment.