Shaping the School Bond: Board Agrees Mount Si Infrastructure Needs Improving, Unsure if Freshmen Separation is Key

With two middle schools over capacity, elementary schools pushing their limits and an aging high school in a changing educational world, it’s the question many parents have been pondering: When is the district going to run another school bond and what will be on it?  It appears they are one step closer to determining the answer.

The Snoqualmie Valley School Board continues to wrestle with a bond decision, but are now providing some clarity about the needs the next bond will address.

At the school board’s February 6th meeting, Superintendent, Joel Aune and Board President, Geoff Doy, led the board through the beginning of a three-part process to come to agreement on facility needs: 1) what is needed; 2) when is it needed and 3) the process of delivering those needs.

During the meeting, the board responded to the first question: What is needed?

There was significant board consensus about building needs, with all five members agreeing the district needs to build another elementary school by 2016, return to three middle schools and address a list of maintenance needs in all SVSD buildings.

Then came the more in-depth discussion: Does Mount Si High School need improving to 1) address aging infrastructure; 2) be responsive to today’s educational program needs; and 3) continuing the separation of freshmen from grades 10-12.

[A bit of history: SVSD has been working with architects for over a year, exploring modernizing and expanding Mount Si to provide room for 9th graders, allowing for the current freshmen campus to return as the district’s third middle school.]

MountSiHS

All board members agreed that the high school infrastructure needs improving. Geoff Doy spoke of flood-proofing and seismic improvement needs. He added, “Certainly, we have safety issues we’d like to address.” His board mates agreed.

Discussion then ensued about whether the high school building was responsive to new education program needs.  Doy led the way, saying that Mount Si was originally designed in the 1960’s, for kids in desks facing blackboards; explaining as the district looks to  the future of STEM, new science standards and new jobs, today’s students must be taught in a new paradigm – one with more collaboration, interaction and technology integration.

Doy said that Mount Si’s current mid-century design makes it harder for teachers to do that, saying, “if we do nothing, we will be here in the 2020’s with a school designed in the 60s.”

Doy also pointed to the district’s new mission statement – “to prepare all kids for college, career and citizenship” – reminding board members that those careers have changed since the 1960’s.  Doy concluded by saying, “We owe it to the kids to have a high school that responds to that need.”

Board Vice President, Carolyn Simpson, agreed, adding that she also thinks about it from the point of view of today’s 1st grade parents, and without a renovation plan, these parents can look into the future knowing Mount Si will not change by the time their child reaches high school.

On these points, Dan Popp said he was “absolutely affirmative” and Tavish MacLean said he was an “unequivocal yes” to improve Mount Si for program needs.  Marci Busby dissented, though, saying she needs more information from education experts and was not ready to agree that MSHS needed improving for program needs.

When it came to the topic of separating freshmen, again there was a split. Busby began the discussion saying, “I love the freshmen campus. I want it to remain separate.”

The four other board members, though, seemed to share different viewpoints on the separation, including: the new freshmen curriculum seemed to be working well; SVSD won’t have clear data on the impact of the freshmen campus for over four years; there’s not a clear way to discern between the impacts of the new 9th grade curriculum versus the separation; and the separation does not need to be a big distance, but could be achieved on the main campus.

Tavish MacLean referenced some opinions that the separation is key, but then said, “I am not convinced.” He added, “Good things are being implemented that could just as easily be implemented on the main campus.”

Doy commented, “If separation is key, my belief is that we can achieve separation, bigger or lesser, in one building of entirely freshmen on the main campus.”

During the meeting, the board, in almost unanimous consensus, developed a list of building needs that the next school bond should address.

At their February 27th meeting, they will discuss the timing and delivery of those needs and how they impact when a school bond will be brought before voters.

'New' Issaquah High School, modernized in 2011

‘New’ Issaquah High School, modernized in 2011. Photo: Issaquah SD

'New' Bellevue High School, modernized in 2012

‘New’ Bellevue High School, modernized in 2012. Photo: Bellevue SD

SammamishHS

Future Sammamish High School, currently being modernized, designed as STEM high school. Photo: Bellevue SD

AuburnHS

Future Auburn High School, currently being modernized. Photo: Auburn SD

 

 

Comments

  1. I agree that the design of the school is terribly inefficient (it has all these awkward hallways and additions instead of being a multi-level structure) and it is just getting more and more outdated. As a MSHS graduate and a teacher myself, I understand that these changes are necessary if MSHS wants to keep a good reputation for incoming teachers and students alike.

    What is frustrating though, is the clear lack of planning and foresight on behalf of this school board. First they called bonds for the additions to the building, then portables, then for a new middle school, then they had an spare middle school and made it into the freshman campus… Now they want to revamp everything we just paid for for the these past 10 years?! I am frustrated with the board for not proposing a new high school to begin with. I remember them making projects smaller and smaller thinking that would gain financial support from the community, when it would have been much smarter for them to propose a more permanent and efficient solution from the beginning.

    If the board would acknowledge their own issues regarding their inability to plan effectively and efficiently for the future AND propose changes to fix the issues they have created, I would be a lot more likely to get behind this. Love the idea of a new and improved middle school. I hope they are smart enough to create a plan that substantially increases the capacity of the high school, gets rid of the freshman campus, and creates a school district that parents would be proud of.

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