Sunday, March 10, 2013

LETTER: Where will the children moving into downtown Redmond go to school?

Susan Wilkins said...
Where are the children from the new apartments and condos in downtown Redmond supposed to go to school? Redmond Elementary is already near capacity with 401 students and Redmond Middle School is seriously overcrowded with 970 students. Nearly 400 elementary students from the east side of Redmond (Woodbridge, Evans Creek & Hidden Ridge) are bused out to Dickinson Elementary and Alcott Elementary every day. Both of these schools are more than 3 miles outside the city limits. Students from River Trail, north of QFC, are bussed up to Rockwell Elementary. It seems like the vision for downtown Redmond is walkability - walk to shops, walk to parks, walk to entertainment, walk to the transit center. But walk to school? Forget-about-it! Why hasn’t the City of Redmond told the school district to plan for students living in the downtown area and insisted that they build schools to meet the walkability model that is being developed?

The school district says that there isn’t enough land available to build schools in downtown Redmond. Note that Lake Washington Institute of Technology (LWIT) built a satellite campus next to Marymoor Park in 2004 and DigiPen just moved into its new campus along Willows Road last year. A number of churches/religious groups have converted warehouses in the industrial areas that are comparable to a typical school in size and space usage. Redmond could really use another elementary and a middle school downtown (or maybe a K-8) that residents could walk to.

Bob Yoder has hit a nerve when asking what the future identity of downtown Redmond is going to be. Maybe the plan is to create a thriving, exciting downtown for Yuppies (young urban professionals) and DINKs (Dual Income, No Kids) in which case, downtown schools will not be needed. If children are supposed to be part of downtown Redmond, then the City needs to open a dialogue with the school district about where they will go to school within the City limits – and insist that the schools be located where children can actually walk to school.

By Susan Wilkins, Education Hill, Redmond


Paige Norman said...

Another excellent article, Susan. It's astounding to me that the city planners and the district aren't working more closely together while mapping out the 10 and 20 year plans they both seem to have.

We are constantly asked for more money in bond and levy requests to upgrade schools but the schools are never made larger to keep up with the growing population.

Add that to the apparent unwillingness of the City to address traffic and transportation issues (such as Avondale, Red-Wood Road and 166th), there will be lots of places to shop and eat in Redmond, but no way to get there without a 30 minute car trip.

Anonymous said...

Dear Susan,
You and Bob highlight an interesting issue. One item to note is that children living as far south as NE 85th are currently bused over 2.5 miles up to Norman Rockwell - when Redmond Elementary is less than a mile away. Also important to note that Norman Rockwell's enrollment is projected to be >= 650 next year with the entire 5th grade currently housed in portables. These students must cross the blacktop to reach bathrooms and drinking fountains. New construction is not just occurring downtown - consider that 100 new townhomes are being built on NE 106th and 40 new homes on NE 107th. Assuming 100 new kids in these two developments and it is clear that the LWSD must build a new elementary school as soon as possible. This is not a 5-year problem - this is a "now" problem.

Susan Wilkins said...

What many people don’t realize is that when a developer applies for a permit to build new houses or a new apartment or condo complex in Redmond, the school district is automatically informed that new development will take place. For many years, the Lake Washington School District would have its attorney send a letter to the city and the developer demanding the payment of school impact fees for each house/condo/apartment that would be built. The letter was signed by the school superintendent and the developer could not continue with the permitting process until an agreement to pay was signed and registered with the county. A few years ago (~2008), the City of Redmond changed the policy and automatically required the developer to agree to the impact fees and then collected the fees and forwarded them to the school district as part of the planning process. In the past decade, the school district has received millions of dollars in impact fees and has been informed about every unit of housing that has been built.

All along the school district has known about the new apartments and condos that are being built in downtown Redmond. They knew about the thousands of houses being built in North Redmond and out at Redmond Ridge East. They knew that hundreds of new students would soon be enrolling at the schools. Instead of systematically tearing down and rebuilding all the school on their 1998 and 2006 “modernization” lists (with most of those rebuilt schools located on the west side of the district where little growth was occurring), the school district should have reallocated money and built or expanded schools on the east side of the district for all the new students who were moving into the new houses, condos and apartments.

The school district is once again sounding the alarm that classrooms are overcrowded and schools are running out of space. They want taxpayers to fund another round of tear-down/rebuild “modernization” and they also want to add two new elementary schools for $80,000,000, one at Redmond Ridge and the other in north Redmond at the corner of NE 122nd Street & 172nd Avenue NE. The trouble is that the school district is $500,000,000 in debt for the past 15 years of construction (plus another $240,000,000 in interest). There are limits to how much debt the school district can take on, and with the district’s current rate of construction spending, it will soon reach that limit. ***If taxes for bond payments rise too high, lower priority bonds for libraries and parks will be suspended.***

The construction spending spree that the district has been on for the past 15 years needs to end and the district needs to plan sensibly and carefully if/when it asks voters for more money. They need to take an inventory of facilities and classroom space that they already have and reallocate it more efficiently and effectively.

Bob Yoder said...

What is the source for your comment the school district is $500,000,000 in debt plus another $240M in interest? I'd post your comment as a letter except these numbers are unfounded.

Susan Wilkins said...

The Lake Washington School District’s Form 196 (Annual Financial Statements) for 2011-2012 is available at Page 19 of 76 of Form 196 lists the districts bond obligations on 8/31/2012:

Total Voted Bonds: $469,185,000
Total Non-voted Bonds: $31,195,000
Total bonds: $505,380,000

When the district sold bonds in July 2012 to pay for the additions at Redmond High School and Eastlake High School, they provided a financial statement for bond holders that can be found on the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board’s website. The Official statement for the bonds can be accessed at and on page 20 of 122 shows that outstanding bonds will cost taxpayers $241,987,986 in interest. (Plus another $7,365,400 in interest for the UTGO general bonds & LGO high school bonds being issued in July 2012.)

Also in the Official Statement for the bonds, starting on page 18 of 122 there are tables of overlapping debt and debt capacities for the school district. In July 2012, the district had $1,178,571,103 available. It seems like a lot of money, but the district’s aggressive Phase 3 modernization plan could use up 70% of that capacity. Plus whatever is borrowed, taxpayers have to pay back.

(To see the Lake Washington School District’s list of issued bonds, go to and enter Lake Washington 414 in the Quick Search field.)