Eleven years. That’s how long it’s been since voters in the Snoqualmie Valley School District approved a capital construction school bond to build needed facilities.
11 years is a really long time in the world of a student. My now 6th grader was just a 1-year old when we passed that bond in 2003. I was hopeful then. Honestly, I don’t feel that same hope today.
Five failed school bonds since 2007. Three of which would’ve produced a long-term facilities solution spanning 10-15 years into the future. Then two failed schools bonds with a threat even attached. That threat? Pass this bond or we’ll close your middle school. Sorry. Maybe a nicer way to phrase it is a ‘compromise’ – even if voters perceived it as a threat.
So here we sit. Down to two middle schools when voters approved three with the 2003 bond passage that built Twin Falls. And the high school (built in 1951 and expanded over the years) was last partially remodeled in 1991 (and still floods by the way) and students bused all over the Valley to schools where space exists or space has been created for them with portables.
The district is gearing up for its next bond. The school board publicly stated in March 2012 that it would run another bond to increase middle school space. They’ve spent two years examining ways to get that space – and more importantly, determining the needs of all students across the district looking out 10 years.
Just this month, the board stated SVSD needs another elementary school by 2016-17. They stated we will run out of middle school space by 2018. They also said the high school is in need of improvements for both safety and the delivery of modern education.
Yet, there is a push to just run an elementary only school bond.
Huh? Wait. They said SVSD needs elementary AND middle school space within a tight two-year time span. Both should be addressed with the next bond. Are they planning to run back to back bonds then? Each bond costs roughly a teacher’s salary to put on the ballot.
An elementary only school bond is motivated by fear. Fear of voters. A desire to FINALLY pass a school bond. In the education world, bond passages are, in part, what defines successful superintendents and school boards – and ours can’t seem to capitalize in the red zone.
So they’re talking compromise. Looking for a magic bond that will pass. It was this desire for compromise that led to the 2011 bond, a middle school only bond. Newsflash. It didn’t pass either. It got to the one yard line on the first bond attempt. So we went for it on 4th down and got pushed back to the 5-yard line with the second attempt.
What is the magic bond? I don’t think one exists. I don’t think there’s an easy solution. I think it’s going to take widespread voter education regarding long-term needs. I wish I had the answer, but in terms of 10-year student needs in this school district – just an elementary school doesn’t address them.
Sure young parents, that compromised bond might get you an elementary school. Heck, I got one in 2003. Now 11 years later my children’s middle school is gone. They now attend middle school on the eastern edges of North Bend. A great school, albeit inconvenient.
11 years later, the high school still floods, but has a nice portable pod in the parking lot. There’s no water pressure in some bathrooms; the roof leaks; the auditorium and band rooms are too small; at time when we say STEM is the future, three students often use science lab space designed for two; the halls are narrow; there’s little natural light topped off by low ceilings. Heck, the nicest bathroom on campus is at the stadium because 2003 bond money upgraded the athletic facilities.
In the end, you may get your elementary school, but it could come with great future compromise, including running subsequent bonds and hoping voters have an appetite to approve more than one in a short time period. If there is no appetite, like the last 11 years have shown, my kids’ current middle and high school experience IS your future.
Fear. Compromise. Or a long-term plan with education. You decide. It’s too late for my kids.