The Othello School District is planning ahead to address concerns a growing population of students - known as the "bubble" among OSD administrators - presents to the schools in the community. OSD Superintendent George Juarez said recently that for now, the four elementary schools in Othello can accommodate the students within the bubble and has shifted its focus to finding room for these students once they hit McFarland Middle School. To shed some light on the issue while ensuring representatives of the community can lend their input, the OSD formed the Facilities Planning Committee. Assistant Superintendent Gina Bullis is a member of the group, who gave a report to the school board last summer on the possible paths OSD can take to address population growth. Among those ideas include adding floor space to the current MMS building, building an entirely new middle or elementary school and moving sixth-graders back down to the elementary schools before transferring to MMS as seventh-graders. One thing that is clear, Bullis said, is there is no feasible way to house the projected 1,200 students expected to crowd the halls of MMS in the future. "We've talked to our principals and it certainly wasn't what they thought would be a positive experience," Bullis said. Juarez said the problems teachers and administrators face every day only get more complex when there are too many students in a building. He said the bubble is a good problem to have since it will most likely translate to additional state funding down the road but can't wait around for it to solve itself. He said OSD has been fortunate to have proactive individuals on top of this but needs to address it one step at a time. Up next is passing the levy, which would give them a three-year window to address the population boom more closely. "Our No. 1 priority right now is passing the levy," he said. Bullis said the levy would fund their operational costs for the next three years and would pay for approximately 16 percent of the OSD budget. With this weight lifted, Bullis and OSD would be able to spend more time finding funding for new capital projects to accommodate population growth. She plans to reconvene with the facilities committee sometime after levy results are determined in February and hopes to continue to expand on the options they've come up with. "Between now and the summer, I would say the fog will probably be cleared enough where we would at least have a plan to be able to say 'two years from now, this is what we foresee happening,'" Bullis said. It is still early in the game with many options on the table. Juarez and Bullis both encourage community members to get involved with the facilities planning committee to help shape the future of the OSD. Contact the OSD office at 488-2659 to find out how to assist.