Editorial | Finger off Pause Button: Time to Stop Blaming, Move Forward and Invest in the Schools Community Needs, Deserves

My family moved to Snoqualmie about 14 years ago. To some longtime Valley residents that might mean I am still a relative newbie, but when it comes to schools, it feels like we’ve been through it all. So if experience equals years, I think we have long timer status sewed up – even if honorary.

My oldest, now a college sophomore, was 6-years old the first time she walked down the hardwood halls of Snoqualmie Elementary. At 9 months pregnant with my 4th child (now a 7th grader), I waddled her into that new school with a 2 and 4-year old in tow. Those two kids are now a sophomore and a senior at Mount Si High School.

During those 14 years we have lived in two Snoqualmie homes located a mile and a half apart. Mind you, that 1 1/2 miles made a big difference in school life stability and experience.

My children lived through six school boundary changes in about eight years. They’ve attended nearly all SVSD schools – SES, CVES, NBE, CKMS, SMS, TFMS and MSHS, including the freshman campus. All the while we lived in the same 1 1/2 mile radius.

It’s time for a long-term solution.

This Feb 10th, a comprehensive school bond is a chance at a long-term education and school facility solution – one that brings needed stability to Snoqualmie Valley students, teachers and families – and ends the patchwork school capacity remedies that for the past ten years have been the solutions of necessity.

It’s time to invest.

Yes, I know that solution has a $244 million price tag, but there are big issues to address – now and for the future – with today’s dollars before the price tag jumps even more.

It’s been 12 years since the last capital school construction bond passed. 12 years of school needs didn’t disappear. They just sat on the back burner simmering – and are now almost boiling over.

We need more elementary and middle school space. This bond addresses that by constructing a new elementary school and re-purposing an existing building (9th grade campus) to address middle school capacity needs, saving tax payers and the district construction and long-term operational costs associated with a new middle school.

We have an aging high school that is too small, has too many portables, has safety and security issues and isn’t designed to meet today’s changing educational requirements.

Mount Si High School was built during the Kennedy era – at a time when The Beatles made that first, infamous Ed Sullivan Show appearance and flood codes didn’t dictate building design. So guess what? Mount Si sometimes floods. We’ve already lived through two (2006 & 2009) floods in fourteen years.

Today’s county flood codes don’t just let you just improve Mount Si without changing the building to meet new, stricter codes.1106FloodRagingSnoqVal604Mt It’s the reason so many Snoqualmie homes surrounding the high school have been raised above flood levels – and a big reason Mount Si needs to be re-built and can’t just be remodeled.

Over the past 60 years, as more space was needed at Mount Si, sprawling additions were tacked on – adversely affecting the building’s flow. There are some hallways out of sight from staff. Ask your kids about the “dungeon” and things that happen there.

That sprawling high school design also comes with serious safety and security concerns –  complete with about 19 portables and 19 main building entry points. Ask Marysville-Pilchuck High School officials about the struggles this type of design brings to an emergency situation – the hours required to lock down the school as building after building is checked and secured.

Over the years, additions were made to Mount Si, but some common spaces were overlooked, including the band room and auditorium. Mount Si’s award-winning band program keeps on growing, but not its practice and performance spaces. They’re too small for the students we have now – and more kids are on the way.

Mount Si’s plumbing and electrical are old. There’s no water pressure in some bathrooms. Roofs leak. Rodents are an ongoing issue.

The state now mandates high school students have more lab science credits to graduate. Right now Mount Si barely has adequate science lab space, with three high school students often using lab space designed for two.

A high school rebuild capitalizes on about $17 million in state matching funds. It also enlarges Mount Si to hold 9th graders (in their own space) which, again, reinstates the district’s third middle school without the tax payer burden of building a new one.

This bond addresses the needs of all students for the future.

It’s time to stop blaming. Stop citing the if only’s and the could’ve or should’ve beens. It’s time to get our fingers off the pause button and finally hit play – finally move forward as one community… for that community.

This is it. Time to say goodbye to patchwork bonds, which cost more in the long run, and usher in an era with a future-forward, long-term solution.

Of course, this requires a community-wide investment – even from those without kids or those whose kids are just a little too old to benefit. I realize some shudder at that investment, wanting something concrete to benefit their own children.

I get that. In fact, this solution will most likely be too late for my own kids. Are my kids okay? Yes, they are. Could it have been better? Yes, I absolutely believe it could have been.

The only thing left for me to do is to remember that and improve things for those who come after my kids. Because it’s education that builds strong kids and strong kids help build stronger communities. It’s all connected. For me, and for the community I love to call home, I feel it’s worth it.

It’s time. Time to pay it forward, sideways and backward. Time to push play and see what the future can hold.

Because out there somewhere is a mom with a first grader and another baby one on the way (and maybe a couple of more watching and following her) – just like I was so long ago. And I wish that mom Snoqualmie Valley schools ready for her kids’ futures.

It’s time. Finally time. For the future. For our kids. For our community.

2006 flood where exterior of school flooded. Flood waters from 2009 flood event entered MSHS.

2006 flood. Flood waters from this event and a 2009 flood, entered MSHS.

 

 

Comments

  1. Jill (Peach) Sawicki says

    and noone who was there can forget the 1991 flood that got inside the school and destroyed the multipurpose room/cafeteria. We used that tar/concrete floor for the rest of the year…sooo gross.

  2. Diane Lindstrand says

    Thank you Danna. Your editorial is spot on. For those that are planning to or considering voting no on the February bond please reconsider. Maybe you don’t have children in the SVSD, maybe you don’t have any children at all but I would guess that most of you received a public education and if that’s the case then folks just like you helped to pay the way. Please vote yes on the February SVSD bond. Our great valley community deserves great schools. Thank you!

    • Yes, the people who vote no because they don’t have a kid in school make me sad. These kids they refuse to support are the people that will be nurses and doctors , etc. for them when they are old! Our students need a safe, modern place to go to school.

  3. Jerry Cummings says

    This maybe one of the best peaces of truth on this issue facing our kids in this area. But I speak for many when I say: I WILL NOT SPEND ONE DIME ON ANY EDUCATION SCHOOL OR BUILDING/ PROGRAM UNTIL COMMON CORE IS RIPPED FROM THE SCHOOLS!!! Kids are not learning in this program, there being indoctrinated. Teachers hate it, kids hate it. Rocks are hard, water is wet… You want money for schools, then let schools be schools again.
    Jerry Cummings
    Northbend, WA

    • I’m a teacher and I don’t hate it… I’m a parent and I don’t hate it…. how on earth is it “indoctrinating” to say that all students should have attained a certain level of knowledge by a certain age? Have you bothered to actually read the standards?

      • Lynn, I’ll tack on that my kids don’t hate it. For me, it’s exciting to hear them talking and observe them thinking about material in more thoughtful and creative ways.

    • Jerry Bopp says

      Common core does no indoctrination whatsoever-it is a great deal about skills. I do teach at Mt. Si-in fact the Common Core affecting me(history and geography) is nothing new at all.
      Furthermore-The SVSD had nothing to do with adopting the Common Core-it is a mandate from the state. SVSD has no choice but to do so, just like all other school districts in the state.
      and indoctrination into what? being able to read, write and think analytically?

  4. Such a well written Editorial. You are absolutely correct and I plan to vote yes. My children are 8th and 10th grade and wouldn’t benefit directly by the bond. My wife and I chose to live and raise our family in the Valley because it is the most beautiful place on the planet with the friendliest people in the state. My hope is that when it’s my children’s turn to settle down and start families, they will also choose the Valley. Even if they don’t, I want the schools fixed for those close family friends of ours that do decide the Valley is the right place to raise a family.
    “Time to pay it forward, sideways and backward.”

  5. Christen Jeans says

    Excellent article, Danna. I’ve read the bond details and it is the best, comprehensive plan for our kids. I’m voting “YES” on February 10th.

  6. This editorial does a great job of pointing out all the flaws with the current school system and promising that the bond will fix them, however it fails to address the specific ways in which the bond actually fixes the problems, which it does not. Even if the bond did fix these existing problems, it would still not be the most cost- and time-efficient way to do so. Instead of expensively building on a flood plane and over saturating portions of the high school during construction, the district should be looking to new, safer land so that construction does not eat away at the budget, nor at the already strained learning environment at Mount Si High School. Don’t be deceived by the flashy promises of the bond, as they cover up a lack of planning and a lack of prudence.

    • If I remember correctly, one of the original idea’s was to look at a new HS location. The School Board found it was not a viable option….

    • Andy Cleary says

      This, thank you Dana.

      This editorial creates the strawman argument that if you are against this bond, then you are against children or education or apple pie or something.

      But one can be for children and still think this bond is a stinker. In particular, while the price tags for the elementary schools are plenty reasonable, the vast bulk of this bond is for the highschool, and it’s a complete overpay. The board had the option to split these into separate bonds and decided to try to ram the bad in with the good, and I for one am not buying. Come back to me with a bond for the elementary schools and I’ll vote for it, but go back to drawing board on spending 200M to replace a school that is functional over, say, investing in some flood mitigation or putting some money into a bond or insurance for the possible future case that it gets flooded and specific repairs are needed.

      We can say things like “Mount Si’s plumbing and electrical are old. There’s no water pressure in some bathrooms. Roofs leak. Rodents are an ongoing issue.”, and those should be addressed, but they don’t cost $200M. It would be deliciously ironic to be calling to educate our children by setting the example of being fiscally irresponsible.

      • Danna McCall says

        The high school component also gets the Snoqualmie Valley SD a needed middle school, as the freshman campus would then become the needed 3rd middle school. So the $188 invested in the high school gets you high school and middle school space. Just wanted to clarify that.

      • We get 17 MILLION dollars of state matching funds by remodeling the HS!!!! I recommend you take the principals tour- very enlightening, and take several deep breaths in the science lab…. No HVAC system. Also- I loved seeing the MANY rat traps in there as well!

      • Your comment is awaiting moderation.

        We get 17 MILLION dollars of state matching funds by remodeling the HS!!!! I recommend you take the principals tour- very enlightening, and take several deep breaths in the science lab…. No HVAC system. Also- I loved seeing the MANY rat traps in there as well!

  7. eve martine says

    Wonderful commentary, Danna. While you tell your own personal story, you clearly articulate the needs for space and how this bond will finally address those needs appropriately. Thank you!

  8. I will vote yes for many reasons, but one of my biggest concerns is the portables. I don’t want my grandkids in a school where the back doors are left unlocked all day. I know for a fact that this is how it has to be in our schools that have portables. We need to fix the situation now, and have enough room at each school to hold the number of students attending. Violence can still happen, but we need to at least make an effort to have our kids in a safe and secure environment, where visitors can be monitored and lockdowns can happen fast. I believe this bond will provide that safety, so I hope people will join me in voting yes.

  9. Anne Stedman says

    This editorial seems a bit misleading, on many levels. First, these pictures of flooding at MSHS from 2006 imply that Monday was equally dramatic. I was at MSHS all day Monday and I can assure you it was not flooded. (2009 was the only year water got in the building). In my mind, and for those around me, the bigger worry – and pertinent flood pictures – would have been from SES, with surrounding parks and streets looking more like lakes, and the kids needing to be evacuated to the Freshman Campus.

    Also, I hope readers understand the true impact of “re-purposing” of the 9th grade campus back to a middle school. Their hard earned $ has already been spent to turn it into a HS facility – and a successful one at that. If this bond passes, even more taxpayer funds will be spent to revert it back to a middle school. That doesn’t seem to me to be “saving tax payers and the district construction and long-term operational costs associated with a new middle school.”

    The abundant portables mentioned were supposed to be an on site version of a 9th grade campus when they were first installed. The problem that arose with that concept was, when the kids went into the building, for any reason, it was hard to keep track of them. Principal Belcher spoke to the school board about this problem prior to the establishment of the Freshman Campus. Eventually, other priorities overtook the Freshman separation concept and it fell apart. The same will happen again – a permanent structure vs portable won’t change the impact. Once the Freshman go into the building (gym, lunch, office, nurse, etc,) the concept, that has worked so well in such a short time to address school engagement, truancy, stress etc., will fall apart. And during construction? Good luck keeping track of them then. Keep in mind the main committee finding that resulted in the FC – the best predictor of HS graduation was a successful Freshman Year.

    For those worried about hallways that are out of sight from staff, maybe another concern should be the planned multi-level parking garage. That will add to the areas that are impossible for staff to fully monitor for safety and behavioral issues.

    $244 Mil buys our district no more HS capacity than it has now. With the passage of 1351 in November, and Core 24 (which adds more credit requirements for graduation), the proposed HS risks opening post construction at or past capacity for medium enrollment. At this point, also based on 1351, the district could IMMEDIATELY NEED TWO ELEMENTARY SCHOOLS. There is only one on the ballot. Where will we put kids when the pretty new HS is full? And our elementaries are full? Again? Immediately? What will be told to voters that have been lead by some to believe we are “one and done” and this bond solves all the District’s problems?

    With the current Freshman Campus working well, we have the same capacity as $244 buys us, as well as more time to explore better long term options for our high school. Improvements and updates to the HS can be made (science labs/roofs/etc.), a new Elementary, even 2, and a new MS, can be run for far less. We have time to do this right and taxpayers deserve our due diligence in exploring the options.

    The last MS bond that failed by one vote was for $56mill. Chump change compared to this whopper. This bond is huge but it is not comprehensive. Voters should not be surprised if passed, that the District will have to go right back to them for other needs.

    • John Belcher: Vision for Re-Built Mount Si High School

      We are excited about the potential of a facility that will better meet the needs of our students, 21st Century learning, and the approaches to teaching that are showing significant engagement, achievement, and motivation for teachers and students.

      Often the focus of a new building is on looks and competing with our neighbors, rather than what our MSHS Visioning Team has come up with for the new facility. We are focused on teaching students in the manner that is showing the most promise, and the current facility is a challenge to do that in.

      We need a facility that will house and educate students for another 50+ years that has the spaces, programs, and facilities that can match the changes and demands of the future. Education has changed and the needs of the workforce have changed. We need a facility that best matches those changes.

      The vision for the future of Mount Si High School involves more access to student services in centralized locations, so that more students will engage with the resources that will help them be successful.

      Currently, student services are on two different campuses, in several different locations throughout both campuses, and not utilized to their full potential by students.

      We would like to see these services — like Counselors, Administration, Food services, Library, Career Center and Security — all housed in an area that is directly associated with where students want to hang out and in turn, will utilize more.

      We envision better security, safety and efficiencies in student movement to maximize our instructional minutes with students. We envision flexible classrooms that are more conducive to collaboration and current approaches to teaching like Project Based Learning, STEM approaches and new vocational programs that promote skills and experience in demand by our economy.

      We envision more student talk then teacher talk, and that will require specialized furniture, specialized classrooms with flexible arrangements, and places where students can work in teams.

      We would like to create smaller learning communities so that a large 4A high school feels like a smaller school with staff that know students well. We would like to reduce the silo effect of departmentalizing the high school (placing classes like math in one hallway) and increase cross collaboration by putting a variety of content areas in similar vicinities to increase interdisciplinary approaches. We want to increase the personalization of each student’s education to ensure they are supported to reaching their goals.

      A new facility would promote increased communication about student needs, increase the potential to better meet student needs, and increase both student and staff collaboration. This in turn, through research, will lead to more students being prepared for the demands of 21st Century careers. We know this community values Mount Si High School and our student body. Our student body will benefit from this community’s support, and will flourish in a new facility that better meets teacher and student needs.

      ~ Mount Si HS Principal, John Belcher

      • By Joel Aune

        Snoqualmie Valley Schools Superintendent

        On Tuesday, Feb. 10, a school bond proposition in the amount of $244 million will appear on the ballot here in the Snoqualmie Valley. This proposal presents an opportunity to invest in the community, in our schools, and in the young people who attend them. It addresses district-wide necessities, severe overcrowding in our elementary and middle schools and significant needs at Mount Si High School originally constructed over 50 years ago.

        Our school district is one of the fastest growing in the state, and for the past 10 years, we have been pursuing a long-term solution to address overcrowding in our schools. During this time period, a variety of bond proposals focusing on the long term have been put before the voters, and each has earned strong support — between 57 percent and 59 percent — but not enough to achieve the 60 percent supermajority requirement for bond propositions. As a result of these near-misses, our facility needs have reached a critical juncture.

        Nearly 40 years ago, our community was facing similar challenges. Growth in the North Bend area had pushed North Bend Elementary to the breaking point. Completion in the late 1970s of the North Bend bypass project, now referred to as I-90, resulted in rapid expansion of developments like Wilderness Rim, River Bend, Alpine Estates, and Cedar Village. The school district struggled with growth, and students were shuffled to schools in Snoqualmie to “make room” for all the new kids in the North Bend area. People expressed concern about growth, taxes, the economy, and changes occurring in the Valley. Time and again, bond propositions to build a new elementary school in North Bend failed to garner broad community support throughout the Valley. The bond that ultimately resulted in the construction of Opstad Elementary was placed on the ballot five times in the 80’s before a supermajority level of community support was finally attained for passage on the sixth attempt.

        We now find ourselves in a similar position some 25 years later with a bond proposal needed to avert significant overcrowding in our elementary and middle schools. This bond provides relief for overcrowding at the elementary level and provides a middle school in each of our communities, North Bend, Snoqualmie, and Fall City. We find ourselves needing to make a significant investment in Mount Si High School to ensure it fully meets the needs of our students, our teachers, and our community—now and in the future.

        I believe the Snoqualmie Valley School District today, like back then, serves to connect the many unique communities and neighborhoods throughout this beautiful Valley. Our schools tie this community together. They serve children from Snoqualmie Pass in the east, to Sammamish in the west. Our schools provide a place for our young people, parents, and community patrons to gather together, not only for education, but for the arts, athletics, activities, and community events. The Snoqualmie Valley schools are an enormous part of the fabric and spirit of this community.

        Strong schools are essential to the health and vibrancy of any community. Ours is an amazing one, filled with strong families and caring neighbors. This bond is an opportunity to reinforce our culture and rich traditions while ensuring a bright future for our community.

        The outcome of this election is now in the hands of the voters. Please take the time to become well-informed about the specific details of this school bond proposition, as your vote will directly influence the future of our students, the sustainability of our school facilities, and the health of our community.

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