Morton School District is working on long-term plan to address failing structures


By Emily Fitzgerald / [email protected]

An architect’s analysis of the Morton School District bus barn confirmed what the administration has known for years: the building is in very poor condition and it is unsafe to continue using it.

The building, which was originally used as an open bay industrial facility, was first constructed in 1942 and acquired by the school district in the 1980s after Morton’s previous bus garage was destroyed in a storm in snow.

“It was bought as a stopgap and it served us well, but originally it was built for other purposes and now the building is basically in the same shape it was for a few years and we have become too large for the building, ”said Superintendent John Hannah.

A condition assessment submitted by KMB Architects on September 7 revealed signs of severe water intrusion throughout the building envelope and dry rot in the eaves framing, lead and asbestos in some of the building materials, outdated plumbing and electrical systems, and a general lack of ventilation. , temperature control and accessibility of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). A lack of functioning lift stations means the mechanic – who works alone – manually lifts buses with jacks and crawls under them to work, creating what Hannah says is a safety issue.

And the issues don’t end with the structure itself: the south side of the bus barn property is only partially paved and overgrown, so buses can only park on the side. north – but this encroaches on the nearby Alta Forest Product Manufacturing Facility.

“Our buses can have their front tires in our bus garage and our rear tires on our neighbor’s property,” Hannah said. “We have a good neighbor… but the building is built on the slope, so there is nowhere to go. “

KMB Architects indicated that it would be expensive to try to repair the structure and the property is not compatible with new construction. The Morton School District is therefore considering a plan to build a new college / high school facility with a fence to separate the student bus garage.

But this project is valued at $ 3 million, and the Morton School District has other facilities that, while not as dire as the bus barn, are still in need of major repairs.

Morton Elementary School, in particular, was identified as a structure in need of complete replacement due to a need for significant seismic upgrades and a myriad of other projects. the 73-year-old structure.

“It has been very well taken care of by the neighborhood, but there haven’t been any major renovations since it was built in 1948, so in order to meet its long-term needs, it becomes a domino effect where a repair needs to be done. having one bigger upgrade that leads to another bigger upgrade, and ultimately the district doesn’t have the capacity to fix it, ”Hannah said. “So unfortunately the elementary building is stuck in a position where the neighborhood is unable to make the repairs that need to be done in the long term due to the domino effect. ”

KMB Architects assessed the primary school in July and found that in addition to the necessary seismic structural improvements already identified by the state, the roof was at the end of its life cycle and the building itself was not accessible to visitors. the ADA, which did not comply with energy codes, lacked ventilation and temperature control systems and needed a complete replacement of its electrical system. And like the bus barn, lead and asbestos have been found in some of the building materials, including tiled floors and ceilings, paint, and insulation.

Overall, the estimated cost of upgrading the building could exceed $ 13 million.

The district is considering a project to replace the building with an “elementary wing” attached to the Junior / Senior High School building, with separate entrances and student spaces for the two schools.

KMB Architects’ assessments of the road barn and elementary school were part of a district-wide needs assessment that the school board will consult when developing a long-term plan to meet the needs. in district facilities. The company also evaluated the facility for the Junior / Senior high school, and found the property to be a feasible location for potential future projects in the district.

As part of the effort to create this long-term plan, the district has partnered with Washington State University to launch a survey of Morton community members to let administrators know which are, according to them, the most important needs in terms of facilities as well as their “hopes and dreams.” for the district, ”Hannah said.

The survey is live at and is open to all members of the Morton community. Paper surveys are also available – call the district office at 360-496-5300 to request them.

The results of this survey will be presented to a citizens’ committee in four to six weeks, which will make an official recommendation to the Morton School Board. The school board will then finalize a development plan and present it to the community.

The district anticipates that it will not be able to cover the cost of repairs to the facilities on its own and is already looking for ways to fund repairs to the facilities. In addition to a $ 50,000 state grant to fund the needs assessment, the district hopes to work with the state legislature to secure capital budget funds for future facility projects and will consider raising funds during the elections, if necessary.

“We’re really trying right now to look at as many opportunities as possible to make sure we have a really good idea of ​​how much funding we have and if we’re going to go to the voters, that we can be clear on how many we have. We need it, why we need it and what other options we can count on, ”Hannah said.

Further information on the Morton School District’s facility needs is available online at

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