A building of classroom space at 411 NE Fir St., in Winlock, owned by the Archdiocese of Seattle and soon to be leased by the Winlock School District to house their alternative learning program, which is being relocated to help expand room for early childhood education classes.
The Winlock School Board has authorized the signing of a lease with the Archdiocese of Seattle to use nearby classroom space once utilized by the local Catholic church.
Approved during the board's April 15 meeting, the lease allows the district to occupy a 2,360-square-foot building located at 411 NE Fir St., just a block from Winlock Miller Elementary School, starting July 1 of this year, with the option to renew the lease every year afterward.
According to Rev. Tim Ilgen, who helped lead services in Winlock until the closing of Sacred Heart Catholic Church in March of 2014, the building once served as space for religious education classes, but has been unused for the last several years after such classes were moved to the church itself. He added the building was officially closed after the church shut down last year.
Superintendent Shannon Criss said the district and the Archdiocese have been in discussions since January about possibly leasing the space, and said the intent is to move the district's alternative learning program to the leased building and use the vacated classroom space to expand their preschool offerings.
According to Criss, the Archdiocese has agreed to lease the space for free if the district pays for utilities, maintenance and property taxes on the building, which the Lewis County Assessor's office said would cost $1,606.95 per year at the building's current assessed value of $136,200.
"I still think that's pretty cheap," Criss told the board, stating a rough estimate of the cost to use the facility would be around $650 per month. "We get a pretty good deal for getting a long-term school."
Criss said, after moving the alternative classes to the new building, the district plans to expand the classroom space available for preschoolers, including traditional, migrant and special education students. She added Winlock is pursuing a grant to begin offering Head Start classes for the estimated 40 preschool-aged kids in the district whose families cannot afford early childhood education, and said they hope to find out next month if the grant application has been approved.
In the meantime, Criss said certain electrical upgrades are needed to prepare the building for use by students, stating they ought to be completed in the coming weeks. She also said, if the need arose, the building could be used for additional programs such as staff training or board meetings, stating the lease does not include any restrictions on the district's use of the building.