Op-ed | School Bond Vote Deserves Full Truth, More Context

Every bond proposition, no matter what for, usually has supporters and detractors. There are always questions because let’s face it –  no bond is ever perfect for everyone.

This latest school bond gets us THREE schools – one elementary, one middle and a completely rebuilt, ballot mailboxexpanded high school – and adds/reinstates permanent capacity for 1,850 students across all grade levels.

Our society operates on a fundamental premise that involved parties have the opportunity to present their side of the issue. The problem is, if you only present some parts (leaving out others), it’s easy to create doubt, even fear. It’s what political campaigns thrive on.

Talking points and partial facts provide an easy path to doubt. Additional information is needed to bring the picture into focus. Talking points are easy, but are not the full picture.

This is true of the latest SVSD school bond. Education isn’t easy and talking points aren’t enough, as they can misrepresent the big picture.

Recently, an anonymous anti-school bond campaign popped up in the Valley. Who am I kidding? Of course it did. It’s the way it goes around here. It’s been 12 years since a capital bond solution passed so, hey, why not try and tack a few more years onto a needed solution?  What’s the harm in waiting for an absolute perfect solution?

I remember thinking that about 8 years ago when my 20-year old was 12. She’s now in college and my youngest is 13. My four kids have been through numerous boundary changes and attended nearly all SVSD schools – all while waiting for a perfect solution to appease everyone. It’s time to move forward.

I get it. The district is asking voters to invest – and an investment 12 years in the making isn’t cheap.

Enter detractors. Use talking points. Create a little doubt and hope yet another bond falls just shy of supermajority passing. No harm no foul – and an anonymous online blog can do the job just fine.

BUT, before voters decide, it is important to have more information because it’s with all the facts that informed voters are made.

I know, it’s work to move beyond talking points. But in the case of education, it’s worth it.

So let’s take a look at some of the statements from the detractor and examine the issues, expand on the partial information:


Fact:  The Mount Si High School Rebuild is a total 6th – 12th grade capacity solution – not simply a high school solution. It’s rooted in a 2-for-1 concept.

Fact: The MSHS rebuild would increase capacity on the main campus for 700 more students.

Currently, by operating a two-campus high school model with 19 portables, students are spread out everywhere. The school stretches almost two city blocks from its front entrance, with a maze of hallways connecting additions constructed over the past 60 years. The freshman campus is a half-mile up the road.

Fact: A rebuild for 2,300 students in one central, comprehensive school brings freshman to the main campus (in their own space); promotes greater unity with one central campus; increases programming options for all grade levels; increases security for staff and students; eliminates the logistical issues of transporting students between campuses; eliminates teachers traveling between the schools.

Fact: The MSHS rebuild also gives the district back a middle school. Reinstating the existing freshman campus building as a middle school increases capacity for 550 students at the middle school level. This also eliminates the taxpayer burden of constructing a new middle school, along with the long-term operational costs of running that new facility.

TOTAL FACT PICTURE:  The MSHS rebuild is a 6th-12th grade solution. In order to see its full impact value, it has to be looked at as such. It increases both middle and high school capacity –  by 550 at middle school level and by 700 at the main MSHS campus – or by 1,250 students. It also transforms the high school, enriching education.


Fact:  A significant number large majority of new high school classroom space will be finished by 2019, with the phased-in project slated for completion in 2022. Total construction time is about 4-5 years.

After all that new classroom space opens in 2019, the school will still be under capacity. By 2030, 15 years from today, the demographic estimate says Mount Si might be at 2,300 students. Keyword: MIGHT. Not likely or for sure, meaning it’s also possible MSHS won’t reach 2,300 students 15 years in the future.

Fact:  The MSHS rebuild size is based on the demographer’s mid-range forecast- a recommended planning number using his best ESTIMATE.  Estimate does not mean guaranty. It’s a planning tool looking 15 years out. The demographer states that “the further out we go, the less reliable the forecast will be.”

Fact:  From 2000 – 2015, about 4,500 homes were built in the Snoqualmie Valley (most in the large Snoqualmie Ridge master-planned community). During those 15 years of rapid growth, FTE enrollment (full time enrollment) at MSHS increased by about 450 students.

Fact: Currently, no other development the size of Snoqualmie Ridge is planned in the Snoqualmie Valley – and Snoqualmie Ridge is estimated to be complete in 2017.

Fact: The latest demographers’s estimate of 2,300 student provides MSHS capacity for approximately 700 more FTE students than are enrolled today, and space for 250 more students compared to the 450[FTE] enrollment MSHS experienced during the last 15 years of unprecedented Valley growth.

Fact: 2,300 is a good planning number for school construction. It’s an estimate, not a guaranty of certain enrollment in a certain number of years.

TOTAL FACT PICTURE:  The MSHS rebuild is a 6th-12th grade solution. In order to see its full impact value, it has to be looked at as such. It increases both middle and high school capacity –  by 550 at middle school level and by 700 at the main MSHS campus – or by 1,250 students. It also transforms the high school, enriching education.


Fact:  We don’t know what ALL teachers think – to say we do is false.

Fact:  Currently, numerous SVSD teachers and administrators have endorsed this school bond.

Fact:  Teachers asking questions in a meeting that occurred almost one year ago does NOT mean they don’t support the bond. It simply means they had questions they wanted answered, which does not equal equate to being unsupportive.

Fact: High school teachers, staff, parents, and students participated in a High School Educational Visioning Process and helped create a future MSHS designed around key education modalities. Their planning will help ensure a new high school facility is responsive to the needs and success of all students.

Claim:  We’re Re-building MSHS to Move Freshman ONE Block to the Main Campus

Fact:  Door to door, the freshman campus is one-half mile from the main campus, much further than one block.

Fact: The walk between the two campuses takes 10-15 minutes and puts students along busy SR 202 and Meadowbrook Way. SVSD spends additional operational funds transporting students between the campuses daily, as well as on teachers who travel between campuses.

Fact: Rebuilding MSHS is not about about just one grade level, it’s a comprehensive solution for students in 6th to 12th grade.


Fact: It isn’t cheap to flood-proof an aging building, but and we aren’t simply freshening up MSHS. We are completely rebuilding and bringing it up to current FEMA flood code (raising) and preventing future flood damage to the interior. It’s the same investment Snoqualmie businessess and homeowners are making in their floodplain properties.

Fact:  We are also increasing the capacity of the MSHS main campus by 700 students. Adding square footage also increases costs.

Fact: We are allowing the school to function as ONE high school – not an original building with a freshman campus up the street and a portable pod in the parking lot.  We are taking three smaller, less connected areas and making ONE centralized  high school, creating unity and allowing the school to enrich education opportunities to help improve students success.

Fact:  The rebuild would provide more parking than is currently available at MSHS, where hundreds of cars are parked and clog residential side streets surrounding the school. The redesigned MSHS would make the most of the land, adding parking spots under raised buildings.

Facts:  The main MSHS site is one of the the most central locations in the large district. Rebuilding on this site capitalizes on this district-owned land and preserves site investments, including the athletic complex.


Fact:  Some studies show this – and other studies show the benefits of having larger schools, including more educational programming options, services, and extracurricular activities – opportunities that can be limited at schools with smaller enrollment and few staff.

Fact:  To capitalize on the benefits of both, the High School Visioning Committee helped create a future MSHS design that utilizes small learning communities (separate building areas) wrapped around a central student service area (lunch room, media center, collaborative study areas, counseling and administrator offices, nursing center )to create a concept of smaller schools within a central school.


The Snoqualmie Valley School District has about 6,000 students. Half are elementary school students and half are secondary students. This comprehensive bond solution addresses the needs of all students.

SVSD Proposition 1 School Bond is a solution that accommodates 650 more elementary students, and 550 more middle school students, and 700 more high school students at the MSHS [main] campus; as well as addresses facility improvement needs at all existing schools.

Prop 1 is a good solution. It may not be perfect for everyone, but it’s solid and holds a big return on the community’s investment.

It’s a big decision for voters so do the work. Check on the district’s FAQ page; email the school board or the superintendent if you need more information.

This decision deserves more than just some of the information and claims from an unknown online source.

We owe it to the kids and the community.


Comments are closed.


  • You’re asking us to invest a costly $244 million into our schools when a $130 million option that also meets district wide needs was on the table and received 57% voter approval via phone surveys last year. Were voters asked their preference on the options? We don’t need to knock down a structurally sound home to build a palace when a remodeled estate will also do. Our valley can no longer ignore growth on the ridge. Our busses are dangerously overcrowded as our kids travel 70-80 minutes a day to their far distant schools. Our kids have paid their dues! The need for the elementary school has been held hostage to pass this costly controversial total rebuild of the high school. The board needs to be accountable for their lack of action after the February bond fail of 2011. The middle school on the ridge was rejected by ONE vote. They should have turned around the following year and put it back up for vote along with district wide improvements. We wouldn’t be in this dire predicament if proper action and timely bonds were put up to voters. It’s not about the ridge verses the valley. We must support students throughout the district and accommodate growth wherever it is. We need smaller affordable bonds that unify our valley and balance needs throughout the district. Believe me, I want to say yes to schools. I don’t mind my taxes going up but truly, is this the fiscally responsible course of action?

  • Ever since Snoqualmie Ridge came about the future of our school district has been in doubt. Accelerated growth rates were to have been held in check, but with the passing of time and change in political climate the checks or “phased implementation” were voted out by councils and future housing phases were allowed to proceed years earlier than projected. Weyerhaeuser and Quadrant with a little political help were always ahead of us.
    Impact fees were a new issue in the 1990’s, but they were implemented by the valley’s cities. With over projecting future numbers of students in the district for prior bonds the last seven years, the cities (who collect the money) were finally forced to require the school district to indemnify or cover any lawsuits from developers who opposed the impact fee as the district’s student numbers were too high. Due to the school district’s inability to grasp the problem and correct it at once, the issue dragged on and the school district lost several hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions. This was later confirmed when the state cut funding as they had been over paying based upon these projections and the district budget took a sizeable hit that included cutting back on teachers.
    Then there is the issue with the land provided by Weyerhaeuser as part of the impact deal which was exposed a few years back by the newspapers.
    As a tax payer, I expect better management and political decisions from our policy makers, past and present, on the council and school board. Now we are at the cross roads of a 244 million dollar bond.
    So, what will the future bring and will these issues be in the light of transparency by the school district. Currently we are looking at faculties which house our students so they can learn in a friendly and safe environment. But what are all the facilities? Left out of the discussion is the following facilities which will also need to be replaced by a bond issue sooner rather than later:
    1. Maintenance/Warehouse building next to the administrate office. This ancient building is way over due for a new larger modern facility on a larger site. Walla Walla recently built their district a new facility.
    2. Administrative Offices – the old school house is nice as a historical piece, but not a modern working office for employees. There was no room before and with the new appointments of four assistant superintendents and their secretaries, it’s really crowed as well as in the flood plain.
    3. Bus Barn — the yard is at capacity and needs to be moved out of the flood plain. A modern facility would save money over the long run.
    4. Grade School Portables — new wings need to be built at most elementary schools to replace portables. This does not solve the all-day kindergarten requirement instituted by the state.
    My contention, there is a lot to look at and be transparent about and the cost is millions of dollars. Maybe it is time the school district broadcast their board meetings on public TV? I believe it would be a hit.

  • Hello Jennifer-
    The option to build a Middle School on Snoqualmie Ridge failed twice, not once. This new bond option gives Middle School children a 3rd Middle School back, where capacity is also gravely needed. Please don’t hold the middle school kids “hostage” because you don’t think that our aging high school needs to be flood proofed, modernized, capacity increased etc. Middle school kids have paid and are still paying their dues when SMS was taken over for 9th graders. Many of our educators, including the principal at Mount Si, feel that fixing and rebuilding Mount Si is crucial. Many small bonds have no guarantee of passing and also end up costing the tax payer more in the long run.

  • Hi Neighbors, after listening to most every School Board meeting via podcast or in person over the last few years I’ve seen for myself that they’ve tried and considered many options to address this district’s existing buildings and need for more seats. They and the administrators have also spent time studying the new graduation requirements in Washington state (called Core 24), that next year’s 9th graders must fulfill before they can earn their high school diploma – which will be called a “Career and College Ready Diploma”. Here’s one small example of what they are facing: students not only will need to satisfy double the amount of lab science credits, but they (and the district) will need double the amount of science lab space to make this happen. After everything I’ve heard at School Board meetings for the last 3+ years, it seems to me like they’ve done extensive due diligence in coming up with a plan that addresses the needs of kids entering kindergarten all the way through their graduation. Board mtgs aren’t on TV yet, but they are on podcasts at the link below. To get a full picture though, one would need to listen to a few years or more worth of podcasts because that’s how long they’ve been investigating a solution.
    School board meeting recordings — http://www.svsd410.org/site/Default.aspx?PageID=173 .

  • Most people against school bonds are because they might not have kids, or they have older kids out of grade school and don’t want to pay hundreds of dollars more in taxes each year. It’s sad that people don’t realize that this will also benefit them as well!
    New Schools not only benefit the kids going into the schools, but schools and education in a city\town are the #1 (I say it again, “#1!”) reason for property value increase. These topics and issues are all about perspective, and when voting for things sometimes you have to look at it from all angles. It will cause you to have to sacrifice and save a bit more each month to pay the extra in taxes at the end of the year, but it will also help you see a 30% increase in your property value after a short amount of years which could be in the 100’s of 1000’s of dollars ($100,000) . New Schools also attract more people in to the area, people with money willing to pay for good schools. Just saying “No Vote” might be judging too quickly, the fact is “you too” are affected by not having good schools in town or enough to educate the next generation of youngsters. 

  • Jennifer,
    You haven’t had the benefit of living in the Valley for the last 10 years. The bond that lost by one vote went through a recount AND a re-vote less than two months later. Many were critical that the District moved too quickly to put the same measure back on the ballot. Two months after losing by one vote, it lost by hundreds. Most would see the district’s hiatus from putting out new bonds to vote for as an acknowledgment that they needed to do more homework and not as a sign of inaction as you suggested. We are not in this predicament because the district hasn’t put forth bond options. The opposite is true.

    One other thing to keep in mind…this bond will cost $1.00/day for the average homeowner ($400,000 valuation)

    THE MOST IMPORTANT COMMENT I HAVE ABOUT YOUR POST is that the high school cannot legally be “remodeled” as you suggested. State/Federal law requires that “remodeling” beyond a certain % of the buildings total value triggers the requirement that the building be in compliance with CURRENT flood codes. I believe that % is 10% but I am not 100% sure. My point is that we are done being able to tweak and make small modifications to the current high school. It simply cannot happen. Doing anything more to the high school, especially adding square footage, requires – by law – that it be brought up to current code….which is exactly what the bond is doing. New high school. New capacity. New middle school. New elementary school. Trust me…there has never been a more comprehensive bond.

    1. Sean,
      From what I understand, the high school could be remodeled up to $30 million before State/Federal laws would mandate building to current flood codes. Please show me evidence of flood damage to MSHS in the builder’s assessment. Washington State has invested millions in the Snoqualmie Valley to prevent such from happening. Remember just last month when hwy 202 closed due to flooding. What was the condition of the high school? Any flooding? We have several district buildings in the flood zone. SES, FCES, district facilities and the like. Do we knock them all down too at some point? That’s why there is such a thing as flood insurance.
      The district estimates that the bond would cost tax payers $1.29 per $1000 of taxable property value. Your guess $365 is quite a difference from the districts estimate of $760.

      I really want to be on your side Sean, I do. I’m sorry.

      1. Jennifer,
        Again, you haven’t had the benefit of being in the Valley long enough to see the bigger picture. My fear is you are simply repeating rhetoric from someone in our community who is very disgruntled with our school district. A few years ago, before you moved here, both MSHS and SES had flooding. It was a flood that was far worse than what you saw last month. In fact, it wipes out a 100-yard stretch of SR 202 closing it for more than a week. It was devastating and it did breach at least two of our schools. We are not “knocking down” MSHS because it’s in a flood zone, We are rebuilding it because we have major capacity issues….capacity that cannot legally be resolved with $30M in renovations. The district has spent 10 years looking at ways to add capacity and do the necessary upgrades under the $30M threshold and it simply can’t be done. I don’t blame you for not knowing this because you haven’t lived here very long. I would just ask that you get information from more than just one source….the same source who is telling people their property taxes will go up by $2,000/year which is completely untruthful.
        As for the cost, schools cost a lot of money. The $1.29 per $1,000 you reference does not take into account the WA State Income Tax deduction…something you may not be aware of since you are newer to Washington. Accounting for the tax break you get, the district web site says a $400,000 home would pay $31/month in increased taxes. That’s $1.00 per day except in February :-). So for your house it will cost $1.81/day or ~$50/month. I can assure you that this will be a lot cheaper than breaking a bond up into three parts and building one school at a time.

  • Just wondering if you are publishing all comments or exercising editorial rights to delete unfavorable comments.

    1. So far all comments that have come in regarding this article have been published. We do have a commenting policy and so far all have met that policy. Hope that helps.

  • A lot of facts, yet none address price. This is a huge increase in the school portion of our property taxes. It does not appear warranted to me, and I’ll be voting no. This appears to be nothing more than a pork laden bill from congress, throwing funds to every constituent except the taxpayer in an attempt to get enough support to pass.

  • AC…what is your solution? What would you vote yes for? As for price, for someone with a $400,000 home, this bond amounts to $1.00 per day. Where is the pork? What would you cut out? And which age group of kids should we shortchange? Ripping on the bond is certainly within anyone’s right, but the helpful thing is to propose an alternative.

  • In response to some of the comments above:
    I agree with Ms. Gibbs, “We must support students throughout the district and accommodate growth wherever it is”; indeed it is a legal requirement of the school district to do exactly that. There are six thousand children at school in our District and it is the responsibility of the School Board to ensure that each and every one of them receives the best education possible, an education that maximizes their potential and prepares them for their future, wherever that future takes them.
    Sean Sundwall makes the point that the Board received heavy criticism for placing a repeat bond on the ballot in 2011 and the second bond failed by more votes than the first. The current school board is not the one that proposed the 2011 bond, there have been three new members elected since that time and part of the many hours of deliberation by the current board included the consideration of ignoring these two failures and repeating for a third time. Our approach was different, it was to look at all needs across the District and across a fifteen year time horizon.
    The proposed bond addresses the capacity issues at the elementary level and allows us to meet the state requirement for lower class sizes and full-day kindergarten. It addresses the capacity issues at the middle school level by reverting the freshman campus back to a middle school. It will reduce the numbers of children who have to be bussed to school. It is not anybody’s wish to bus children to schools away from their immediate neighborhoods. But for overcrowding reasons this is the reality. Two hundred and sixty nine elementary children are bussed from the Ridge to either North Bend or Fall City. Five hundred middle schoolers who used to attend Snoqualmie Middle School are bussed to Twin Falls or Chief Kanim. This bond addresses both those situations.
    The proposed bond adds significant permanent capacity at the high school and provides an environment that will allow Mr. Belcher and his team to provide educational programming that will address the needs of children today and into the future not the needs of children of the sixties when the school was first built. I recommend listening to Mr. Belcher’s talk on the high school visioning process recently completed, it is truly inspirational. As Sean Sundwall points out, we are past the remodeling point at our high school. For safety and security reasons, for building code reasons and for educational reasons we need to rebuild the high school.
    The proposed bond also addresses issues in our other schools; a new septic system at Fall City Elementary, a new roof at North Bend Elementary, a multi-purpose room at Snoqualmie Elementary and so on.
    This is a comprehensive bond, the most comprehensive bond ever to have been proposed in our district and it supports every child in our district. It is fiscally responsible, there will never be a time when it is cheaper to borrow money, construction costs will only increase and this bond takes care of our capacity needs for the foreseeable future. The alternative is multiple bonds over several years, higher construction costs, higher interest rates, longer periods of overcrowding and a longer wait until our high school staff can have access to an environment that will facilitate the teaching approaches demanded by today’s world.
    Geoff Doy, President Snoqualmie Valley School District Board of Directors

    1. This is the official FAQ for the district that Carolyn Malcom wrote- Why is the high school being built for 2,300 students? Is that enough capacity?

      To assess and plan for the projected enrollment of the Snoqualmie Valley high school population, the School Board turned to the work of professional demographer Les Kendrick. His high school enrollment projections for the district included ALL high school students, not just those that will attend Mount Si High School. Approximately 100 high school students are projected to attend Two Rivers School.

      Kendrick’s most recent demographic report (October 2014) recommended that the district use the medium range enrollment projections for planning the size of a re-built MSHS. The Superintendent and his team supported that recommendation.

      That medium range enrollment projection for Mount Si High School in 2022, when the phased- rebuild would be completed, is approximately 2,030 students (with another 100 students at Two Rivers School). By 2025, that medium range forecast for MSHS is 2,230 students, and by 2030, that medium range forecast is 2,300 for grades 9-12 at Mount Si.

      The enrollment forecast report acknowledged that “the further out we go, the less reliable the forecast will be, since demographic conditions can change dramatically.” Based upon the demographer’s report, the School Board agreed to plan for Mount Si High School to be rebuilt for a student enrollment of 2,300. That represents growth of approximately 700 students from where Mount Si enrollment is at today and would accommodate enrollment growth to the year 2030 under the demographer’s projections.

      1. This FAQ was not just written by Carolyn Malcolm. It was a group effort, fact checked, etc. by multiple SVSD administrative sources – who know the capacity numbers, etc. Per legal constraints, the school district can only put out factual information in its FAQ’s.

  • Sean,

    $190 million for a new school, when the old one could be renovated it pork. The building does not provide the education, that’s up to the teachers and the students. The building needs to be safe, not luxurious. I went to schools built of cinder block construction, that are still in service. It doesn’t matter how much per day, that’s just a means trying to justify the cost by minimizing it’s impact. Add up the cost per homeowner over the life of the bond, because this is really a $244 million mortgage being assumed by the property owners of the district. $244 million. And no, I don’t need to propose an alternative. The burden is on those asking for the $, and they haven’t met it. $244 million is too much, and a high school that is 5.5 times the cost of a new elementary (190/35) is far too expensive when the old one could be renovated.

    1. AC…perhaps you should read Mr. Doy’s comments about renovating the high school. It CANNOT be done. AC…education is everyone’s problem. So you can either do nothing and take pot shots at the current proposal based on bad information or help be part of the solution. Apathy will just get you and this community more of the same.

    2. Our principal really summed it up well! Plus lets talk about our 20 MILLION DOLLARS OF STATE MATCHING FUNDS WE RECEIVE FOR A REBUILD!!!
      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

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