The Lake Washington School District‘s (LWSD) board of directors voted unanimously at Monday’s meeting to approve two resolutions that will bring the district’s plans for a new secondary STEM school closer to reality.
The new science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) school is proposed to be built across the street from Louisa May Alcott Elementary School, which is located at 4213 228th Ave. NE in unincorporated King County.
The resolutions were regarding two reports from a public hearing held April 5 at Alcott as part of LWSD’s conditional use permit application to King County and a resident appeal of the district’s State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) plans for the site.
TRAFFIC AND TRANSPORTATION NEEDS
The first vote approved a report that recommended the board adopt the hearing examiner’s findings from the public meeting in April and proceed with applying for a conditional use, building and other associated county permits needed for the project.
James O’Connor, the examiner also made two additional recommendations to the board.
According to his report, O’Connor recommended the district’s traffic engineer “be requested to consult with WSDOT (Washington State Department of Transportation) on the possibility of providing an emergency vehicle access to and from the STEM school on (State Route) 202, for public safety use only, in the event the SR 202/228th Avenue NE intersection becomes blocked.”
His second recommendation was for the district to “discuss with Metro Transit the feasibility of extending bus service to 228th Avenue NE at times that would coincide with the need for public transportation to and from the STEM school site.”
LWSD superintendent Chip Kimball said these recommendations were made based on community concerns brought up at the public hearing that there is only one access road to 228th Avenue Northeast and no public transportation available in the area. Kimball added that the district would only be required to initiate these conversations — an end resolution may not result and is not required.
Board members acknowledged this and president Jackie Pendergrass said the district should provide the public with information from these conversations.
“I think we need to show that we’ve done it,” she said about meeting O’Connor’s recommendations.
Kimball said LWSD would alert the public about their contact with the outside agencies.
Director Douglas Eglington said realistically an emergency access road and additional Metro service in the proposed STEM school’s neighborhood is most likely not financially feasible and wanted assurance that the district would look at a “Plan B” to address the area’s potential traffic and transportation needs.
In response, Kimball said in their studies and analyses, the district doubled their traffic standards to add an extra cushion throughout the planning process, adding that the district plans to provide bus service for students as well.
“I think that our Plan A is really good,” Kimball said.
The LWSD board of directors approved O’Connor’s findings with his additional recommendations.
The second vote for the directors was to adopt O’Connor’s determination that the STEM school is in compliance with SEPA.
O’Connor denied the resident appeal of the school’s noncompliance with a number of conditions.
His first condition was for LWSD to reanalyze the school’s parking capacity to ensure frequent overflow parking will not occur on 228th Avenue Northeast. If the analysis shows the planned parking lot will not be sufficient, the district must plan and provide additional parking on the STEM school site, which will be for a maximum of 675 students.
O’Connor’s second condition was that the district construct additional parking on the school site if the initial lot is insufficient.
District representatives said one way to create additional parking is to convert a number of the existing regular parking slots into compact slots. They can also convert bus parking slots into regular slots.
O’Connor’s third condition was that the STEM school’s beginning time be offset by Alcott’s by at least one hour and its end time offset by at least a half hour.
O’Connor’s final condition was that LWSD work with an “arborist or similarly trained person from the community at the pre-construction meetings that address protection of trees during development of the site.”
LWSD directors approved O’Connor’s decision as well as his conditions.
Forest Miller, LWSD’s director of support services, said now that the board has approved both reports, the next step is for the district to turn this information in to King County and apply for a conditional use permit and other required permits for the site.
He said they can also continue with the proposed school’s design and construction documents.
While the district has received the green light to continue with its process, David and Stephanie Allgood, who live in the Alcott neighborhood and attended Monday’s meeting, still have some concerns.
Stephanie said all five of their children have gone through and graduated from LWSD schools and they understand the district’s need for a new school, but they feel the district still needs to address a number of issues.
Her first concern was that the proposed STEM school will be built on top of the only aquifer for the Union Hill Water Association (UHWA), which serves the area.
In a letter sent to UHWA members, president Frank Parchman said the association is working with LWSD to take the necessary steps to protect the area’s drinking water source. However, he said if things aren’t done right, the water could be contaminated forever.
Stephanie was concerned that this topic, which was brought up at the public hearing in April, was not even mentioned at the board meeting.
Another concern the Allgoods had was student safety since the school would be located so close to the busy SR 202 as well as an elementary school. Stephanie said the fact that one of the school board members admits to avoiding SR 202, but they are willing to allow students to drive on it has caused her to question the district’s process in planning for the school.
Additionally, she and David don’t think it is a good idea to place a school that will have new, inexperienced drivers next to a school with small children. And after raising five children, they said they know what they’re talking about.
“We understand high school drivers,” Stephanie said. “We’ve lived it.”