Thursday, April 17, 2014

Letter: Levy Committee Letter to Support School Bond Measure

Reprinted and sourced from Rob Butcher's "Kirkland Views" 

Should elementary school playgrounds and sports fields be filled with children running, jumping and having fun at recess or should portable classrooms fill those playgrounds?

Should kids as young as five or six have to leave for school around 5 a.m. to get to class on time at 6 a.m. or should they still be sleeping as most pediatricians recommend?

Should high school students have to take blankets into classrooms because “schools without walls” failed as a concept and walls and ventilation had to be added later?

With more than 800 new students in the last year and 4000 more kids soon to be knocking at schoolhouse doors in Lake Washington School District, voters in Redmond, Kirkland and Sammamish must vote “YES” on April 22.  Read More >>

More than 58 percent of the school district’s voters said YES in the February election.  A swing of less than two percent will enable us to give students the schoolrooms they deserve and the education that their parents wanted for them when they moved here.

When asked why did you move to Redmond, Kirkland and Sammamish, the overwhelming number of residents answered – great education for our children. Keep in mind, residents moving in and buying homes in the District adds value to existing homes.

“Stellar schools” was one of the primary reasons CNN Money ranked Redmond 5th in its “Best Places To Live” in 2012.  Just this year, 25 schools in our District received Washington Achievement Awards from the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction and the State Board of Education.

Sen. Andy Hill (R), Rep. Larry Springer (D) and Rep. Roger Goodman (D) have endorsed the Bond measure as have the city councils of Redmond, Kirkland and Sammamish.  Knowing that good schools sell homes, the Seattle/King County Realtors also believe in investing in LWSD Schools.

With our schools reaching crisis overcrowding, we are placing our children’s educational opportunities at risk.

King5 reported (4-15-14) students at LWSD’s Rockwell Elementary overcrowding is so severe (200 kids over capacity) that classes are being taught in portables, divided classrooms and, yes, even in the hallways. 

To date, our teachers and principals have responded like heroes to the crisis.  However, even their efforts can’t magically make room for another 4000 kids.  As Rockwell Principal Kirsten McArdle's told King5: "We really have run out of options.  Every space we have in this school is being used."

What will an extra $10 – $11 a month buy our children… and the kids soon to arrive… with this Bond?
  •        Three new elementary schools (two in Redmond and one in Kirkland – where the overcrowding is most severe and the most growth is expected);
  •        Rebuild and expand Juanita High School (originally built as an “school without walls” that had to be rehabbed with walls and ventilation);
  •        Build a new STEM-focused high school (giving westside students the same great learning experience of LWSD’s student at first STEM high school on the eastside); and
  •        Expand Lake Washington High School (built before 9th grade students were shifted into high schools).

If the minority of the districts voters say no to better educational opportunities to today’s students and tomorrow’s employees, what options face our kids and their teachers?

Without building more classrooms, “No” voters will force such bad options as:
  •        Kids of all ages starting class at 6 a.m. and ending at noon with others starting at 1 p.m. and finishing class at 7 p.m.  This is what “double-shifting” means in real life terms.
  •       Buying many new portable classrooms.  Where will the money come from to buy dozens of portables at $300,000 each?  Ask the “No” voters.
  •       Students being bussed even farther from their home schools than current (and temporary) overcrowding remedies have caused.  With 4000 new students coming, how long would this band-aid work?
  •        Students attending Juanita High School while the school is being rehabbed once again which not would not only hurt learning but could be potentially dangerous to students and staff.
  •        Canceling all day kindergarten.

This Bond will build energy efficient, environmentally “green” schools designed to house our children while they learn.  Already schools in our District with more efficient and green systems are realizing cost savings that are being passed on to taxpayers.

What the issue comes down to is this: Isn’t an extra $10 - $11 a month a small price to pay to enable teachers to teach and kids to learn in schools that promote learning?


Susan Wilkins said...


The Lake Washington School District is asking voters to approve a $404,000,000 bond measure that would provide funds to address the school district's "most urgent needs now," and then they will be back in 2018 to ask for more. Even an elementary school student knows that $404,000,000 divided by 4 equals $101,000,000. The district is proposing to spend $101,000,000 PER YEAR on new construction for the next 4 years. Is this the district's new normal?

For those residents who are new to the Lake Washington School District, it needs to be pointed out that in 1998, voters approved a construction bond measure for $160,000,000. Voters enthusiastically approved another construction bond measure in 2006 for $436,000,000. And in 2011, voters passed a construction levy that provided an additional $65,000,000 for school construction. Between 1998 and 2014, the district received a total of $661,000,000 from very generous taxpayers to build and modernize schools. The district also received $58,000,000 in state matching funds, raising the total spent on school construction to $719,000,000.

In the past 16 years, the school district has built 22 brand new schools with over 2 million square feet of classroom space. And now they tell us there is an urgent need for more classroom space? What may surprise many is that in 1998, the district had 24,492 students, and this year, there are 26,220 - an increase of only 1,728 students. The surge in students that the district seems to be overwhelmed by was expected all along. Today, all of our elementary and middle schools are full or overcrowded. When additional students enroll in the next few years, the district is projecting extreme overcrowding. They are threatening that there will be double-shifting, year-round school, overcrowded classrooms and limited access to all day kindergarten - unless we pass the proposed bond.

How is it that with 16 years of non-stop construction, $719 million in tax money spent and years to plan wisely - that suddenly we're having an overcrowding crisis? We seem to have a school district facilities planning department that doesn't know how to plan. We have a school board that has passively watched and failed to intervene or modify plans as the overcrowding and portables have accumulated for years.

The school board is asking for $404,000,000 in the upcoming election to fund the first half of the bond measure that failed in February. Repeating the district's past error of building too little too late, it will build only 3 elementary schools when it's clear that district-wide we really need 6 or even 7 additional elementary schools. It will build a middle school, probably at Redmond Ridge, when we really need a middle school inside the City of Redmond. Nearly 42% will be spent to tear down and rebuild Juanita High School with a STEM wing. (The district has yet to provide documents - requested weeks ago - that show that Juanita High is so damaged that it must be torn down, and yet they want us to commit $170,000,000 to rebuilding JHS.)

Should we really agree to give the school district another $404,000,000 for the next 4 years? They will burn through the $404,000,000 and come running back for more in 2018, and then more in 2022. At this rate of $100,000,000 per year, the Lake Washington School District will run through $1 billion in the next decade, and we'll be funding it.

Reject LWSD's Proposition 1 and tell the district to propose a bond measure that builds the classroom space that we need, where we need it, and at a reasonable price. Tell them to conduct a thorough and open facilities review that the public can have access to and participate in. When the district demonstrates that they have a plan to address district-wide overcrowding at a reasonable cost, then they can ask voters to approve the plan - and we will.

Anonymous said...

It is time to significantly raise builder impact fees!

Did you know that the developers of the Redmond Ridge community of 1200 homes paid just over $2 million in school impact fees. This barely covered purchasing the land. Taxpayers were on responsible for the $14-16 million school that was built.


Bob Yoder said...

I totally agree. The district needs to work on their impact fees so that growth will pay for growth. Well said, "anonymous".

Anonymous said...

Question: What will $404,000,000 buy tax payers? Answer: Not as much as it should.

LWSD is back again asking taxpayers for money to build new and "build new in lieu." This most recent bond is the first half of what taxpayers voted down just a few months ago. The second half will surely come back to the taxpayers unchanged at a later date if history serves correct.

What will the April 2014 bond money buy? The April 22 bond measure would fund:

3 new elementary schools (two in Redmond and one in Kirkland);
1 new middle school in Redmond;
The re-build and expansion of Juanita High School in Kirkland;
A new Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) school for grades 9-12 on the Juanita High School campus; and,
An addition at Lake Washington High School in Kirkland. (

Let's look at how another large, old, but growing school district spends bond money. Fairfax County (Virginia) Public Schools just voted on a $250,000,000 bond to build new and renovate. Look at what $250,000,000 buys in Virginia:

The schools plan to use the money to:

Build two new elementary schools
Help renovate 22 schools
17 elementary schools
2 middle schools
3 high schools
Buy land for the South West County High School
Enhance the capacity of one elementary school and one high school
Replace or improve infrastructure, such as roofs, major mechanical systems, and parking lots.

For more information, visit the Fairfax County Public Schools 2013 bond referendum web page.

While all the details are not easily available to compare apples to apples, a new LWSD elementary school will cost $34,000,000 while a new elementary school in Fairfax, Virginia will cost $21,000,000.

Oh - by the way - the Fairfax bond which aimed primarily at building new schools and renovating old ones passed with nearly 74% support!

What can LWSD do better?

Anonymous said...

As for builder impact fees, the district has to work within state law. It looks like the law needs to be re-visited.

Anonymous said...

It should be known that Andy Hill has "legitimate concerns w/ the LWSD approach." He did not come out 100% in support of the way LWSD is spending taxpayer money.