While Susan Wilkins is entitled to her opinions concerning the Lake Washington School District’s facilities planning, I would like to provide corrections to a number of misstatements in her various letters and comments posted here.
Fact: There is no district proposal concerning Evergreen Middle School at this time, as Ms. Wilkins states. The Long-Term Facilities Planning Task Force is recommending a set of projects, including one that would modernize Evergreen Middle School. These recommendations would meet the district’s needs through the 2029-30 school year, or the next 14 years. Specific funding measures and final project lists are still to be determined.
Fact: The Long Term Facilities Planning Task Force proposes an addition to Redmond High School OR a small Choice High School to serve the Redmond and Eastlake Learning Communities at a site to be determined. An addition to Redmond High is not the only proposal, as Ms. Wilkins states.
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Fact: Janene Fogard is the Deputy Superintendent for Operational Services for the district, not the Director of Facilities. The Director of Facilities is Forrest Miller. Mr. Miller has 35 years of experience in facility management. He holds certifications including REFP (Recognized Educational Facility Planner) through CEFPI (Council of Educational Facility Planners International) & EFM (Educational Facilities Master) through WAMOA (Washington Association of Maintenance & Operations Administrators). He is an Advisory Board member and past instructor for the University of Washington Extension Program in facility management.
Fact: The district follows a standard process including community input to determine boundaries when a new school is built. No new school has been funded or built on Redmond Ridge and no boundary process has taken place.
Fact: The district had an appraisal done of the Redmond Ridge property before purchasing it. The appraisal for the property put the market value at $14,500,000. The property was purchased for $13,843,127.
Fact: State construction match is not dependent on a 20-acre site for a middle school. Smaller sites may be acceptable if the site meets some basic requirements.
Fact: The PowerPoint slide referenced by Ms. Wilkins, with a list of school building projects, is entitled: Long-Term Facility Planning Task Force Draft Project Recommendations Through 2030. These are projects that are recommended over the next 14 years. A preliminary cost estimate was $775-900 million cost estimate for all of those recommended projects. Keep in mind that Bellevue School District’s last successful bond measure for $545 million funded space for 3000 new students by rebuilding five elementary schools, one middle school and constructing two new elementary schools. By 2029-30, LWSD will have 6000 more students than current permanent capacity.
Fact: The WAC that Ms. Wilkins cites (WAC 392-343-120) concerning state construction assistance lists the costs that cannot be included for reimbursement in state funding assistance. The district applied for state assistance for projects that qualify for such assistance. To apply, the district had to fully fund the projects up front. The state reimbursed the district for a portion of its costs, freeing up funds to be used for other purposes.
Fact: $13 million is not sufficient to design, permit, build and equip an elementary school, as Ms. Wilkins suggests. Based on past LWSD projects as well as current projects in other Puget Sound area districts, estimates of $30 million plus for the total project cost are more accurate.
Fact: The September 8, 2014, board study session reviewed the funds Ms. Wilkins cites. That study session provided an opportunity to learn about and discuss options for a short term plan to house the district’s growing enrollment over the next three years. The board at that time was informed of $42.5 million in funds available from 2006 bonds already sold, state construction funding assistance and impact fees. Ms. Wilkins counts an additional $12 million in bonds from the 2006 measure that remain unsold and would not be available unless they were sold. (The projects slated for the 2006 bonds have been completed under budget.)
About half of the $42.5 million dollars was already committed. Fifteen million dollars were reserved for land acquisition costs and $6 million dollars were committed toward project pre-design and portable purchase/installation to address 2014-15 enrollment needs.
That left a total of $21.5 million available at that time for short-term facility projects. The short term plan for facilities, adding the equivalent of 69 classrooms at a cost of $20 million, was announced on September 25, 2014, through a news release distributed through a number of different channels and posted on the district’s website. It includes portable classrooms, adding teacher planning spaces and constructing a permanent addition to Redmond Elementary School. That plan is now being carried out. The plan ensures that space needs throughout the district’s entire 75 square miles and at all three levels are met for the next three years. Using those funds to build an elementary school in Redmond, as Ms. Wilkins suggests, would have left students in middle and high school and in other areas of the district without classrooms.
Director of Communications, LWSD