LWSD directors accept superintendent recommendation for $65.4 million levy measure; money would build permanent classroom space
October 13, 2010 · Updated 2:52 PM
The Lake Washington School District (LWSD) plans to seek the support of tax payers for a long-term, permanent solution to overcrowding.
LWSD board of directors voted at Monday night's board meeting to propose a levy measure for the February 2011 ballot.
The proposal, under the recommendation of LWSD Superintendent Dr. Chip Kimball, is for a levy of $65.4 million for more classroom space that will help to alleviate overcrowding anticipated to affect Redmond and Eastlake High Schools in the future.
The measure would pay for additions to house 250 more students each at Redmond and Eastlake High Schools. It would also pay for a grades 6-12 school serving 675 students to be built in the Redmond area that would focus on Science/Technology/Engineering/Mathematics, or STEM, according to LWSD communication director Kathryn Reith.
LWSD board of directors will vote on a resolution for a levy measure at its Nov. 8 meeting. The levy measure will be on the ballot for the Feb. 8, 2011, election.
Reith said LWSD owns "a couple of different pieces of property" — all in Redmond — that LWSD is considering for the new STEM school. Redmond — Redmond Ridge in particular — is "where we have the additional students," Reith said.
The proposed funding measure, which is $190 million less than the failed bond last February, will relieve overcrowding at Redmond and Eastlake High Schools, as well as anticipated overcrowding at the middle school level, especially at Evergreen Junior High, in the near future.
The measure would cost $.31 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, or approximately $155 per year for a $500,000 home. The levy would last for six years before it expires.
More than 600 more students enrolled in the district this fall as compared to last year. The district anticipates 500 more students enrolling each year for the next five years.
This additional enrollment is causing overcrowding now at many district elementary schools, including Rosa Parks, Albert Einstein, Horace Mann, Norman Rockwell, John Audubon in Redmond; Margaret Mead in Sammamish; and Carl Sandburg, Peter Kirk and Juanita in Kirkland.
In the fall of 2012, the district will change to a grade configuration of grades K-5 elementary schools, 6-8 middle schools and 9-12 high schools from its current K-6, 7-9 and 10-12 configuration.
While the decision to change was made for academic reasons, the new configuration will also help with overcrowding. The district would need new classroom space for about 1,500 elementary students in the fall of 2012, or the equivalent of about three elementary schools, if the new configuration was not made. Instead, the district expects it will need space for about 800 high schools students in the fall of 2012, which is a much easier problem to fix, Reith said.
The district held three public input sessions and a survey on its Web site to get direction from the community on what to put on the ballot. It also commissioned a phone survey of a random sample of community members.
“What we heard from community members and parents alike was strong support to address short-term overcrowding,” noted Kimball. “More than two-thirds of respondents in both surveys disagreed with statements that advocated not asking the voters for any funds, regardless of overcrowding.”
Kimball added, “We also heard concern about most no-cost alternatives like double-shifting high school students, busing students to other schools and losing space for programs. We heard from the community that we should ask for money for permanent solutions, like additions to buildings, rather than relying on portable classrooms as a short-term solution.”
Kimball also stressed, “And while we were encouraged to address the short term overcrowding, it is clear that our community expects us to be fiscally conservative at this time. This is why the proposed measure is $190 million less than the measure in February 2010.”
NO BOND FOR NOW
Kimball did not advise putting bond measures on the ballot for new elementary school space or to modernize the outdated Juanita High School at this time.
“Juanita High School is scheduled to be in a modernization measure that we would propose in 2014,” said Kimball. “Given the current economic situation and the lack of support among parents in our survey, I cannot recommend moving up the timeline.”
There was more support for putting a bond measure on the ballot to build a new elementary school, which 57 percent of those who responded to the Web survey and input session survey favored.
“A bond measure requires a 60 percent supermajority to pass,” Kimball stated. “We really need the new elementary school by 2015. It can be added to the 2014 bond, rather than asking for that money now. In the meantime, we will have to use the elementary school space we have more efficiently. That will mean some boundary changes in the near future.”
High school size was also a concern for community members and parents, who wanted to keep the size of current high schools below 2,000 students.
“The only way to keep the high schools smaller was to limit expansion of Redmond and Eastlake to additions of classrooms to 250 students for each school, putting them at about 1,750 students each,” said Kimball.
STEM SCHOOL WILL FILL NEED
Kimball said there is no enough growth at this point to justify building a fifth high school, which could cost $140 million or more. But building a smaller STEM school will help alleviate the overcrowding issue and fill a need for specialized schooling.
"We can create a smaller school that provides some relief for the additional student populations at middle and high school and at the same time meet the interests we have heard over the last couple of years for a school that concentrates on science, technology, engineering and math.”
LWSD board president Jackie Pendergrass acknowledged the interest in these subject areas, not only in this school district but also on a state and national level.
“There is a state workgroup developing a plan to improve Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) instruction and career pathways in state K-12 schools,” noted Pendergrass. “There are similar initiatives at a national level. Given the many parents in our district who work for science and technology companies, there is a strong interest in our community for this district to be a leader in these disciplines.”
Kimball remarked, “This STEM school can not only meet the interests of students who want to pursue careers in these fields, but it can also help us incubate the best practice for STEM education in all of our schools.”