Thursday, February 21, 2013

Lake Washington schools begin bond discussions

February 21, 2013

By Caleb Heeringa
Sammamish Review
New: Feb. 21, 10:16 a.m.

The Lake Washington School Board is sifting through population growth projections and eyeing aging buildings in preparation for a bond measure, likely in February 2014.

While much work needs to be done, Doug Eglington, Sammamish’s representative on the board, said the board is weighing whether to include in the measure a new elementary school in Sammamish or simply remodel and add space to existing schools.

The choices will have an impact on the size of a bond measure that will likely include a major overhaul of the aging Juanita High School as well as additional schools in Redmond. A $234 million bond measure in 2010 failed to garner the 60 percent approval necessary, leading the board to scale back plans and push for a smaller, $65.4 million levy in 2011. Needing only 50 percent approval as a levy, the measure passed easily, 59 to 41, providing funds for the recent expansion of Eastlake High School and the new STEM school just north of city limits.

“Lots of times our eyes are bigger than our stomachs when it comes to the cost (of a bond measure),” Eglington said.

District spokeswoman Kathryn Reith said the district expects Sammamish to have 394 more elementary students than classroom space in 2021, though that projection assumes no use of portable classrooms or other temporary structures. Elizabeth Blackwell Elementary currently has 377 students, Christa McAuliffe Elementary houses 485 and Margaret Mead Elementary has 600.

Reith said Samantha Smith, Mead and Louisa May Alcott elementaries are all due for an update according to the district’s modernization schedule. The district will be examining each and see if it makes more sense to remodel or completely rebuild and whether they can add capacity at the same time.

While the district will need additional elementary space in the coming years, the issue is not as pressing as it could have been. In 2010, the district moved sixth graders from elementary to middle schools and ninth graders from middle schools to high schools to help alleviate crowded elementary schools, where portables, computer labs, art and music rooms were being used as regular classrooms.

Reith said district staff is hoping that space issues at the high school level can be alleviated in the coming years as the STEM school takes on additional grades. It currently only houses ninth and 10th graders, though those classes will be moving up to be juniors and seniors in the coming years and additional ninth and 10th graders will enroll behind them.

The board is due to discuss some of the long-term planning issues and their impact on a bond measure at their annual retreat, March 8 – 10 at 7375 Icicle Road in Leavenworth.

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