LWSD Bond Measure Inadequate - Elementary Classroom Space Shortage & Overcrowding Reaching Crisis Levels in District
Let me say that I have had children at Mann, Rockwell and Einstein so I know these schools and the surrounding neighborhoods well. I reviewed and/or commented on plans for most of the new developments that have been built over the past decade or that are in the process of being built. I often wondered, "How will all the children who will move into these houses fit into our already overcrowded schools?" Read More >>
I can tell you that the overcrowding that we're now seeing has been in the planning (or lack of it) for years. All of these new developments were signed off on by the school district as a condition for their approval, some as long ago as 2007. And I can also tell you that when a new school is built in North Redmond, it will be full the day it opens, and that there won't be enough classrooms for all the new students who will be moving into all the houses that are still planned. The massive Greystone residential development north of the new roundabout at NE 116th Street and 162nd Ave NE will have 184 homes. There are also hundreds of additional houses being built or recently sold.
Rockwell Elementary is at least 200 students over capacity and is packed beyond belief. They converted old, windowless storage rooms and meeting spaces into classrooms. Temporary storage closets line the walls of the outdoor hallways and five portables are used as regular classrooms. Einstein Elementary is nearly 100 students over capacity. Even Wilder Elementary on Union Hill has 100 students bussed over 3 miles from new developments in North Redmond. (I'm not sure why the district claims that Einstein can't add more portables - they have all that space next to A-wing and their lunchroom and library can handle more students than Mann's can.) The new school the district plans to open in 2016 will have space for 550 students. It will be full the day it opens, probably with its own village of portables. For Rockwell students and parents who think that opening one new school in North Redmond will cure their overcrowding problems, well, there are just too many houses planned.
The district's decision to send new students who move into houses along NE 116th Street to Mann Elementary is a shallow, inadequate solution to a festering space shortage that has been years in the making. Horace Mann will be destabilized by the influx of new students from the north. Soon it will have its own "village of portables" and eventually there will be 600-700 students sharing common spaces (gym, lunchroom, library, bathrooms, playgrounds) that were designed for 400 students. Sound familiar? The portables at Mann (and Rockwell) will continue to be used to house all the overflow students for years to come.
The district has bragged to us that since 2000 they've been historically accurate in predicting future enrollments to within +/-2% or within 100 students. Chip Kimball frequently made this statement and now Traci Pierce is saying it. So why didn't they see this overcrowding crisis coming years ago and plan for it?
The failure of the school district's planning department to foresee the impending and predictable overcrowding is to blame. While they tore down and rebuilt 14 elementary schools across the district, all the new schools had only 20-21 classrooms. The rebuilt schools almost always had fewer classrooms than the schools that were torn down - even as the population density surrounding the schools increased year by year. Only two new elementary schools, Carson and Rosa Parks, were built in the past 15 years. We now have 90 portables at our elementary schools and all but 3 schools are full or overcapacity. Even the brand new elementary schools that were built in the last decade are all full. Even after nearly 2000 sixth-graders were moved to middle school to make more room for K-5 students, almost all the elementary schools are overcrowded. What is wrong with this picture? How will voting for the bond measure fix it? (Hint: it won't!)
What's most insulting is that we, the voters, are being blamed for the current problem because we didn't approve the 2010 bond measure that would have built two new elementary schools, one in North Redmond and the other in Redmond Ridge, that would be ready now. Four years earlier, in 2006, voters had approved $436 Million for bonds to fund Phase II modernization. With less than half that money spent, the district wanted another $234 million for more construction and voters said NO.
Instead of telling us that it's our fault that we don't have school capacity in Redmond (or Sammamish or Kirkland) for all the elementary students, why doesn't the school district ask its facilities managers and planners what went wrong?
Ask the following questions:
When the 2010 bond that would have built new schools in North Redmond and Redmond Ridge failed, and the district was sitting on more than $200,000,000 from the 2006 bonds that hadn't yet been spent, why didn't the district scale back plans for rebuilding ICS, Rose Hill Junior High, Rush and Bell Elementary Schools so that there would be adequate money to build those four schools and the two elementary schools in North Redmond and Redmond Ridge?
When the district proposed the $65.4 million construction levy in 2011 (that passed), why didn't they include money for new elementary schools at Redmond Ridge or North Redmond?
How is it that with all the new schools from the 2006 bond measure completed, that the district is still sitting on $10-12 million - when that money could have been used to build a new school either at Redmond Ridge East or North Redmond?
Why does a new elementary school now cost $35 million when Horace Mann only cost
$10 million in 2003? How did the district's spending practices get so out of control?
How is it that a school district that has 24 brand new schools with over 1.4 million square feet of newly constructed space has such an acute classroom space shortage?