Olympia City Council has unanimously approved starting negotiations with the Olympia School District (OSD) that would clear the way to build a school on the city’s Yelm Highway property planned to be developed into a public park.
During the council meeting yesterday, March 22, Parks, Art & Recreation Director Paul Simmons presented the OSD offers Parks & Recreation Advisory Committee (PRAC) discussed during the latter's committee meeting on March 17, Thursday.
“This was not an easy process,” Simmons remarked, adding that the parks advisory group discussed the issue in four to six regular meetings and two special meetings as well as held a community survey to iron out the details of the proposed deal.
“We've heard from individuals in the community that support colocation with the school district,” Simmons said. “We've heard from folks primarily in the soccer community that aren't as excited to share and are really eager to see their soccer fields developed.”
Simmons also reported that they also consulted with community members concerned with losing the berry farm located in the Yelm property and the possible loss of additional farmland if the building of a school was not allowed in the park.
One of the benefits of co-location that Simmons pointed out was the school district’s offer to help in the proposed park’s Phase 1 development, despite the school not yet being built in the immediate future.
“Even though the school is ten years out, they'll start to identify what the layout of the school would look like so that we can concurrently build facilities together so that they flow together,” said Simmons.
Simmons added that OSD offered to update the joint use agreement with the city by Jan. 1, 2024.
“Tenacious and focused”
PRAC Chairperson Maria Ruth spoke during the comments section of the meeting to explain her committee’s role during the negotiation, saying that they were providing feedback on the school district’s proposal.
According to Ruth, PRAC’s rejection of OSD’s first two offers strengthened the school district's final proposal that was presented to them during their meeting last week (see related story).
Ruth called for greater transparency on the public process, saying that it would respect the community more thoughtfully. She also commented on The Olympian describing PRAC as “intransigent and myopic.”
“I would like to offer tenacious and focused,” Ruth quipped.
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