New classrooms in Wapato part of statewide pilot program to help reduce class sizes

WAPATO, Wash.--The Wapato School District is one of five districts in the state that's piloting a classroom construction project aimed at reducing class sizes.

On Wednesday, during a normal day of recess at Adams Elementary construction is being done on four new classrooms.

But they're not ordinary classrooms.

They're funded by the state as part of a $5.5 million pilot program, aimed at reducing kindergarten through third grade class sizes for elementary schools.

"It's going to allow our teachers to really very specifically focus on our students at their point in need," said principal Ben Newell.

Wapato is one of five districts in Washington having these rooms built using Cross-laminated timber or CLT.

Panels are three layers deep of cross-sectioned wood, considered to be more durable and cost-efficient than traditional panels.

"It's permanent construction as opposed to a portable classroom so it should have a longer lifespan," said Wapato School District construction coordinator Dan Murray.

The new classrooms can last between 25 to 50 years according to project leaders.

State leaders want to see how CLT holds up during this pilot, which includes districts in Toppenish, Sequim, Mount Vernon and Seattle.

"It's a very up and coming product that is used in Europe and has been used there for over 20 years," said Washington Department of Enterprise Services project manager Debra Delzell.

But the goal remains on making sure students get the help they need.

The average kindergarten class at Adams Elementary has 20 students.

After these new rooms are done, that number would go down to about 18 students per class.

Benefits that would be felt district-wide as they continue to have eyes towards the future.

"I'm honored to be a part of a place that's willing to push and innovate and make good decisions for kids," Newell said.

Construction on the new classrooms at Adams elementary is expected to be finished around mid April with them ready to be used when the new school year starts.

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