Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Opinion: Letter to Dr. Pierce and School Board Members On The $404 Bond


Dr. Pierce and School Board Members:

Recently the LWSD put up for a vote two Levy and one Bond measures requesting more money for the District.  The Levy measures passed, however the Bond measure failed.  Per your email and information on the District webpage, a survey was conducted of 400 residents in the District to ascertain why the Bond measure failed.  As I was not one of the residents contacted, I thought I would explain my particular reasons for voting “NO” on the Bond measure.

I have lived in Redmond for over 30 years and 3 of my 4 children have graduated from Redmond High School; my fourth child is a freshman this year at Redmond.  My husband is also a graduate of Redmond High School.  Over the past 10-plus years I have watched as the District has repeatedly asked for more and more money to fund building projects to “modernize” aging buildings and build new schools.  My belief is that the District has used these funds in less than effectual ways and with dreadful results.  Read More >>



 

  • Horace Mann Elementary was demolished and rebuilt in 2003 with two fewer classrooms than the original building.  This fall it will house 4 portables.

 
  • Redmond Junior High (now Middle School) was demolished and rebuilt in 2002 with the same number of classrooms as the original building.  It now houses 3 portables.

 

  • Redmond High School has been rebuilt several times; in 1985 and in 2003.  A gym and additional classroom building was added in 2012 along with two portables.  An additional two portables were added in the summer of 2013.

 

  • Lake Washington High School was modernized in 2011.  The failed Bond measure requested funds to add more classroom space for projected student population of 2000 students by 2021. 

 

The above are just four examples of how the District has failed to project the need for classrooms and plan for student growth within a 10 year span; let alone the 30 to 40 years that school buildings are expected to last. 

 

Lake Washington School District receives many awards for their academic proficiency, it stands to reason that many families will want to move within the district to take advantage of these programs.  In addition, Redmond and other areas within the district are still experiencing tremendous housing growth, including multi- and single family houses in most areas.  Older residents are moving out and their residences filled with families – many with more than one child. 

 

I voted “NO” on the Bond measure because I believe the District has used previous funds in a negligent and wasteful manner.  I will vote “NO” again in April because I do not believe the district’s plans for the new bond funds are any different.

 

Sincerely,

Paige A. Norman

5 comments:

Kathryn Reith said...

There is additional information to consider concerning your examples.

The Mann Elementary portables are being added so Mann can accommodate overflow students from Rockwell and Einstein Elementary Schools. Those schools are being affected by all the new development along 116th street. The district asked for a new elementary school to house these students four years ago, in February 2010, and again in February 2014.

Redmond Middle School is being affected by the same new development. We add up to four portables normally per school to provide flexibility. It doesn’t make sense to spend the money to build a new school that would only have four classrooms occupied. However, we do expect more middle school students coming to Redmond Middle and Evergreen Middle, so a new middle school is on the ballot. Middle school space was also requested in 2010.

With regard to Redmond High School, the district in the past has tried to honor all variance requests for high school students who wanted to attend a different school than their neighborhood school. The reasoning was to ensure the students were able to take advantage of courses or programs that might not be offered at every high school in the district. That was fine when we had room in our high schools. We no longer have room at Redmond High School, and as a result, have had to limit the number variances issued to those students who live outside its attendance area. This change will enable Redmond High to accommodate the students living in its attendance area.

Lake Washington High School was funded on the 2006 ballot, when the district had three-year high schools. Planning began immediately and construction began in the summer of 2008. Then-Superintendent Chip Kimball first proposed changing to four-year high school in February of 2009. In other words, LWHS was planned and built as a three-grade high school, to accommodate one grade, or about 450 students, fewer. The change to four-year high schools saved the district from having to build between three and four new elementary schools. And the design for the new LWHS included plans for a later addition, which will save us money now.

Thanks for the opportunity to provide more information on the district's planning.

Kathryn M. Reith
Communications Director
Lake Washington School District

Anonymous said...

The reality is that the portables at Mann will NEVER go away once they are brought in. Already 400 of the 550 seats in the proposed North Redmond Elementary School are reserved for kids who are in overflow portables at Rockwell, Einstein, Wilder and soon Mann. At the rate that the houses are being built along NE 116th Street, there will be 700 kids waiting to move into the new elementary school when it opens. It is not a question of IF the new school will have portables, but how many.

When the new school opens in North Redmond, the portables will still be needed at Mann because of all the apartments and condos that are being built in the downtown. There are at least 7 "mixed-use" projects (retail on the ground floor with 5 stories of apartments above) that are being finished or are still under construction. How many apartments are being added and how many kids will move in? Where will they go to school? Redmond Elementary is full, so no doubt, the district will start sending kids up the hill to Mann - so the portables will never go away.

At the March 3rd school board meeting, a wise parent urged the board not to put another bond measure on the ballot without further assessing the how much classroom space was really needed. Too bad they didn't listen to her. Even with the new school in North Redmond, it's pretty obvious that there will be way more kids than our schools can handle. What the long-term plan for all the kids? More portables everywhere?

Anonymous said...

Once the new schools in north Redmond and Redmond Ridge East are built, Wilder will return to a nearly half empty school (as it was last year). One could assume a logical re-boundary to move some kids in north Redmond northeast to Wilder is in the plans... but then again we are talking LWSD here so maybe not.

News Editor said...

Both RHS and LWHS were designed as 3-year high schools, well before the change to 4-year high schools was even in the horizon. It stands to reason that now that they are 4-year high schools additions need to be built, and portables are in place to fill in the gap. The district did not fail to project this growth, but as mentioned in this letter, the 2011 bond failed, thus preventing the district from building space as projected.

I see that most of the concerns expressed in this letter is with the district's practice of rebuilding every 30/40 years, rather than remodeling, and consider this practice wasteful. That's what we do with our own homes, right? We repaint them, patch them here and there. However, any contractor would tell you that many times it makes more economic sense to start from scratch than undertake a major remodel, which is what a 30 year old school would need. Also, you cannot compare the wear and tear of your regular single-family home with the pounding of 1100 pairs of feet from 7am to 3:30 pm every school day at Redmond Middle School, for instance. Furthermore, if you have ever lived through a major remodel, you can only imagine how insane it would be to carry on a remodel with students on campus. Housing them in portables while the remodel takes place would be every bit, if not more expensive, than building from scratch.

As for failure to rebuild at larger sizes, well, who on Earth wants their children to go to school to a 600 kids elementary? Mann and RMS were rebuilt at reasonable sizes, based on projections that considered new school construction in north Redmond. Again, that construction did not take place, since the new schools contemplated in the 2011 bond were not built. Hence the portables and the overcrowding.

I moved here almost twelve years ago. In those 12 years I've spent over 10,000 hours of hands-on volunteer hours at LWSD schools, so I can say I've an insider's view. My sons went to Redmond Elementary. In those years I saw my sons' elementary enrollment numbers soar from 325 in 2003 to 420 in 2013. Still only one portable, even though they house a Quest program, Full-Day K, Full-Day Special needs program, ELL program, Safety Net services, after-school daycare, and three different family advocacy organizations. That school was built in 1996. I would call this remarkable planning.

One of my kids currently attends Redmond Middle. In the last 3 years, Redmond Middle enrollment has gone from 800 to around 1000. Oh boy, you do not want to be caught in the hallway between periods! This school does not need to be bigger, what is needed is a new middle school. The April 22 Bond, if passed, will do just that.

The April 22 Bond is all about new construction, and will build space for 4,000 more students, which according to current district projections will have us covered for the next 8 years.

Let's say, just for the sake of argument, that the district is falling short on its forecast. All the more reason to vote YES on the April 22 Bond, don't you think?

Anonymous said...

News Editor -

Just curious ... were your sons in Quest or were they in the regular education classrooms?

 
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