Upcoming Survey Could Hold Key to Next School Bond; Time to Answer Your Phone

When, oh when, will the Snoqualmie Valley School District decide on the next school bond? It’s been over three years since the second bond attempt to build a new Snoqualmie Middle School on Snoqualmie Ridge fell about 1,000 votes short – and residents are still waiting.

The district began vetting a possible bond – ‘Option A’ – last May. Based on almost a year of discussion, the majority of school board members have expressed support for this option as a longterm building and capacity needs solution.

BUT, is Option A what the community wants in a school bond? It looks like it’s time to find that out – on a broader scale.

Community Survey Determines Future Bond Direction  Survey1

The school board wants to double-check that this bond is what the community wants before putting it on a future ballot. So a broad (and key) community-wide survey was approved in concept and refined at the May 15th school board meeting.

Starting Wednesday, May 28, 2014, the Snoqualmie Valley School District, through the services of EMC Research, will attempt find the answer to this question by conducting a random sample survey.

What is Option A?

The majority of the roughly $200 million (after state matching funds) Option A is to rebuild and enlarge Mount Si High School to hold 9-12th grade students. Currently the building only holds grades 10-12th grades. With the 9th grade campus located at the main campus, the current freshman campus would re-open as the district’s third middle school, alleviating the overcrowding of Chief Kanim and Twin Falls Middle Schools. Thus, the proposed high school rebuild/expansion serves to solve both high school and middle school capacity issues.

Option A would also build a new elementary school on Snoqualmie Ridge at the corner of Swenson Drive and Snoqualmie Parkway. Additionally, the bond would provide funds for needed maintenance and upgrades at all other district buildings.

The board has repeatedly discussed how Option A would resolve overcrowding issues at all grade levels by 1) rebuilding, improving, expanding Mount Si High School; 2) re-opening Snoqualmie Middle School; and 3) building a new elementary school.

Why Spend Millions on Mount Si High School?

Over the past year, the school board has discussed the limitations of the current Mount Si High building and its 1950’s design, including: 1) the school is aging; 2) subject to flooding; 3) not updated for seismic safety 4) difficult to secure during emergencies because of its 18 entrances; and 5) not designed for modern, collaborative and technology-fueled learning.

During this time, board members have stated that a high school rebuild/expansion would solve these issues well into the future, while also increasing the district to three middle schools – without needing to construct a new middle school.

Board Determines Alternate Bond Direction if Community Does NOT Support Option A

A key discussion at the May 15 board meeting revolved around how to explain to the community in the upcoming EMC survey what a short-term, more band-aid type bond would look like, so that residents can understand the choices when it comes to the next bond.

Basically the board debated, if not Option A, then what?  They discussed the importance of the public understanding that there is NOT an option of doing nothing if Option A does not make it to a future ballot – because there are imminent crowding and facility issues to solve.

In the end, the board decided to include alternative bond component questions in the upcoming survey to gauge what the community might support, if they do not support option A as the way to resolve facility discussions – discussions that have been occurring since 2006.

Costs of Alternate/Comparator Option 

What does a solution look like if not option A? The district knows a new elementary school is needed. When it comes to fixing the middle school capacity problem, though, there are only two ways to get back to three middle schools: 1) free up the former Snoqualmie Middle School building by expanding the high school or 2) build a new middle school on Snoqualmie Ridge and postpone rebuilding the high school.

In a nutshell, it’s build a new middle school for $55 million or put that $55 million toward enlarging the high school and bring Snoqualmie Middle School back online.

This shorter term, less expensive (up front) bond solution costs about $130 million, with the bulk spent to build two new schools – an elementary and a middle school – on Snoqualmie Ridge.  The high school might receive some needed upgrades, like a new roof, but would remain in its current, more-limiting design and size until a future bond could pass.

Answer Your Phone, Share Your Thoughts

Will the community support the longer term Option A solution at around $200 million?  Or will the survey show that the community holds a less expensive, roughly $130 million preference for two new schools on Snoqualmie Ridge – and address the high school with a future bond?

Any way you slice it, with over a decade’s worth of failed capital construction school bonds, solving the issues facing the Snoqualmie Valley School District isn’t cheap.

SVSD’s growth and facility issues didn’t disappear during the past 11 years of bond failures. They just sat around waiting – maybe for this  phone survey that might help determine a future bond path toward a final solution.

Again, the EMC school bond survey begins Wednesday evening, May 28th. It will run until the EMC Research reaches its goal of approximately 400 survey respondents. Results are expected back in early June.

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  • Do we know how much each of these options would add to home property taxes yet?

    1. Late in 2013, SVSD stated that Option A would be about $2.25 per $1000 of assessed value. At that rate I would assume a less expensive bond, one around $130 million, might be around $1.25/$1000 of assessed value – but that is a total ballpark guess on my part. Until a bond amount is set and the latest assessed value for the entire Snoqualmie Valley School District is calculated, though, an exact figure isn’t known. Assessed values in King County are on the rise so I would assume that $2.25 would probably decrease slightly with the newest assessed value calculated into the figure. Hope that made sense. In 2007 and 2008, when the district came close to passing that last big bond (ones around $200 million) the cost to taxpayers ranged from around $1.50 – $1.85 per $1000 of assessed value. I believe it’s higher for this potential large bond because the recession sank SVSD’s total assessed property value.

  • I do not understand why SVSD is not also considering things like building a second high school and/or moving to a Jr. High model instead of a Middle School model. Seems like there has to be more than two choices for fixing the current overcrowding of Middle Schools.

  • I don’t understand why they don’t just build a new High School, make the old High School into a Middle School, and make the old Middle School into an Elementary School.
    It’s hard to get a bond passed here because so many times in the past the money hasn’t gone for what it was supposed to.

  • Living Snoqualmie