ISLAND CITY — Prep work for the installation of a much needed 40-space parking lot is beginning at Island City Elementary School.

The approximately 60-by-200-foot gravel parking lot will cost the La Grande School District only a nominal amount because almost all of the work will be done free of charge by R.D. Mac Inc.-La Grande Ready-Mix and the Mike Becker General Contractor construction company of La Grande, according to John Tolan, Island City Elementary’s principal.

The lot will be installed on what is now a grassy area in front of Island City Elementary School. Becker construction has removed five trees from the site, and R.D. Mac will soon remove the soil, grade the land and add a layer of gravel, all free of charge. Tolan said the work may be completed by mid-October.

Joseph Waite, La Grande School District’s bond and facilities manager, said the parking lot would have cost the school district $75,000 to $100,000 to put in. The only money the school district will have to spend is $2,000 to $3,000 to install concrete bumpers for the lot’s 40 spaces.

Tolan said the parking lot is needed because the school has grown significantly. The school has about 12 new staff to serve its students, including teachers and paraprofessionals who work as teaching assistants. The school has about 60 more students than a year ago, an increase largely due to the addition of two kindergarten classes plus a structured learning center classroom.

This year, the school has an additional 48 students in its kindergarten classrooms and about a dozen in its structured learning center classroom, which is for students with special needs.

See complete story in Wednesday's Observer