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With failing bond, LWSD officials to look at new options to address overcrowding

The latest results for the Lake Washington School District (LWSD) Proposition No. 1 bond show the measure about eight percentage points away from passing.

According to King County Elections, the bond’s approval percentage is 51.99 with a 48.01 rejection percentage as of Wednesday at 4:30 p.m.

To pass, the bond needs a 60 percent “yes” vote and a minimum turnout of 18,503. Results will be certified on May 6.

Based on the early returns, LWSD communications director Kathryn Reith said they don’t expect the measure to pass.

“The results are disappointing for the students, staff and families of the Lake Washington School District,” said Superintendent Dr. Traci Pierce.

Others are disappointed, as well.

“Though the election fell short of the required supermajority support by the community, we are very appreciative of the hard work by the several hundred volunteers throughout the school district committed to sharing accurate data and reliable information toward the honest outcomes,” said Lake Washington Citizens Levy Committee (LWCLC) co-chair Jackie Pendergrass.

The LWCLC is a grassroots, all-volunteer organization founded in 1978 to promote quality education and informs voters about school levy and bond elections and directs efforts toward ensuring their passage.

Pendergrass’s co-chair Byron Shutz added, “We remain many school communities in support of our one school district that has consistently earned our trust to deliver the appropriate solutions and merited our confidence to continue the award-winning service to our students. That community unity collectively rises above our current disappointment and is another key factor to the high-achieving schools that attract more families, and empower companies to expand or relocate here, driving the ongoing enrollment growth.”

If it passes, the $404 million bond would fund the construction of three new elementary schools, two in Redmond and one in Kirkland; a new middle school; a new westside STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) focused school on the Juanita High School (JHS) campus; the rebuild of JHS; and an addition to Lake Washington High School (LWHS). The bond would also leave some funds for future capital projects.

“Without this funding, we will have to begin reviewing other options immediately for housing our rapidly growing student enrollment,” Pierce said. “The good news is that so many families want to move to our area to attend our excellent schools. I am very proud of the work of our district and schools.”

The talks reviewing the district’s options will be starting very soon as LWSD is already dealing with building overcrowding.

Reith said the district has already made temporary boundary changes this school year to bus students from Norman Rockwell and Albert Einstein elementary schools in north Redmond to Horace Mann Elementary School, which now has four new portables to accommodate the influx of students.

In addition, LWSD officials will need to be creative in figuring out where to put elementary school students in Kirkland as there will not be a new one built, Reith said. She said district officials did not have any specific locations for the elementary school in Kirkland or middle school in Redmond.

With the bond failing, Reith said JHS students will continue to be in a building with a problematic heating system and old portables, and the district will need to look at what they can do at LWHS.

“The issue is already on our doorstep,” she said, adding that with the bond failing, the district won’t have a potential tool that would have helped them.

Although she acknowledged the district’s overcrowding issues, Redmond resident Susan Wilkins voted against the bond.

“I think it all comes down to cost,” she said, explaining that the community would be getting “too little for too much money.”

In the future, Wilkins said she would like to see more transparency from LWSD and community input when it comes to planning the district’s future.

Paige Norman, another Redmond resident who was against the bond, agreed. She said the district is asking for a blank check from the community but with no real plans on how the money will be used. She said she is pleased that taxpayers made it clear that they’re not pleased with the way the district has been spending but not pleased that the district still needs to figure out how to make room for students.

“We can’t keep handing you money,” Norman said about the district. “You need to use it more wisely.”

The next time LWSD will be able to put a bond on the ballot will be February 2015, Reith said.

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