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Observations from the LWSD work session | Letter
The Lake Washington School District (LWSD) school board held a work session on May 5 to discuss enrollment and facilities planning. Although the April 22 bond election would not be officially certified until May 6, they had already conceded that the $404 million bond measure would not pass. The board expressed anger and frustration at voters and at the opposition committee that had campaigned against the ballot measure.
The district proposed a short-term plan to address overcrowding for the next two years that included adding portables, redrawing boundaries, relocating specialized programs and limiting all day kindergarten classes at some elementary schools. In light of the bond failure, the bigger question was how the district would proceed. From the discussion, it appeared that the plan was for the district to rerun the failed bond measure in February 2015 or 2016 and it would still include the tear-down/rebuild of Juanita High School.
Most astonishing — the district presented a financial statement that revealed that the facilities planning department is sitting on an amazing amount of unspent construction money including:
• $12 million — Unspent 2006 construction bond funds
• $13 million — Unsold 2006 bonds
• $28 million — State construction assistance (still waiting on $8 million from the state)
• $2.5 million — Impact fees
• Total: $55.5 million
The school district could have built two new elementary schools with this money — one at Redmond Ridge and the other at North Redmond — and those schools would be ready now!
They could have built additions at Redmond Middle School or Rosa Parks to address acute overcrowding at these schools or at other overcrowded schools. They could have done so much to relieve overcrowding in schools across the entire district, but all they did was add portables.
Listening to the discussion at the May 5 work session, I got the impression that the district believes the only way to address overcrowding is through a substantial bond measure. It seems that this passive attitude is intended to ensure that overcrowding remains a problem across the district so all students suffer and voters will be compelled to vote for the next bond measure.
A school facilities department that can’t figure out how to effectively utilize $55.5 million to address acute overcrowding needs to be replaced by our superintendent, and if she is too timid to do this, the school board should replace her with a strong leader who will reorganize the LWSD Facilities Department and relieve these administrators of their facilities planning duties.
Our children are being poorly served in our overcrowded schools — not because of a shortage of funds, but because of a shortage of competent planning. It appears that the school board intends to adjourn for the summer with an interim plan that will temporarily address overcrowding with portables and some redrawn boundaries. We should expect better for our children than this weak, inadequate plan. There are 100-plus days before the 2014-2015 school year begins. The school district could do so much — but it appears they will do so little. Maybe they need to be replaced, too.
Susan Wilkins, Redmond