Op-Ed: When, oh When, Will a School Bond Make it on the Ballot?

It feels like the school board and district have been talking in circles for the past year and a half – lots of talk, but no decision yet. At least when it comes to the next school bond.

We know they plan to run another bond, but for what and when remain a mystery.  In the meantime, parents worry about elementary school space and more possible boundary changes, crowded middle schools and how the new 9th grade campus will work out.

A passed future school bond is key, reflecting a long-term plan to solve the remaining capacity issues facing the district. Such a solution will bring needed stability to students; paving the way for 21st century educational programming; preparing Valley students for their post high life, whether that be entering the workforce or moving on to the rigors of college needed for Washington’s in demand jobs.

So what’s holding up getting that bond on a ballot?

When the board decided to convert Snoqualmie Middle School to 9th grade campus without replacement building space for displaced students, it passed a motion tobondsign run a repeat replacement middle school bond in April 2013.

But then the talk began.  Talk about whether that was the right direction  – because repeat bonds in the Valley historically fail; questions arose about whether a permanent freshman campus was best educationally; and discussions began about the need for a school bond that addressed all of the district’s long-term facility needs, not only at the middle school level.

The board began exploring a Mount Si High School expansion/remodel, which serves the dual purpose of updating and expanding the Mount Si structure with flexible “21st century” learning spaces and fixing seismic and flooding issues at the aging school. Once expanded, the 9th graders could return and the freshman campus converted back to a middle school – solving both high school AND middle school capacity issues with one construction project.

The expansion/remodel option is not new. It was a top choice of a 2009 district committee charged with solving the long-term high school capacity problems. The committee even ranked the option #1 when it came to meeting the educational needs of ALL students.

So over the past two months, the board held multiple focus groups with many community members, being forthcoming about the costs of the high school expansion/remodel and showing all the long-term costs of the three bond options.

On Tuesday, the school board met in a work session, discussing the results of those focus groups, and guess what?  The two options that immediately expand Mount Si and ultimately rebuild the school had a very strong majority support.

Yet the board still talked and talked, with what seemed like no final direction for the next bond determined.  I get it.  It’s hard.  They want to move forward as a community to pass a bond, while paying careful attention to the process.

What makes it even more complicated is that this potential bond direction differs from that originally set forth by SVSD administration – a replacement middle school and a permanent freshman campus.  Leaving the current board and superintendent on distinctly different pages.

School boards and superintendents are designed to work together, forming and running an education system representative of its community.  It’s why the state doesn’t control local education. The community did its job at those focus groups, though.  Now it’s time for the district’s leaders to do theirs.

It’s time for the two leadership branches to rectify their different long-term capacity solutions and move the community forward. Determine a direction, facility components and put the right bond on the ballot.  Let the community know a solution is within reach.

There are many people ready and willing to help with the next bond measure – to show the community why it matters; how this next bond will solve long-term capacity problems and most importantly take Snoqualmie Valley education into the 21st century.

Ready. Willing. Waiting.  For a decision. For the future.

Will it happen tonight?  It’s on the July 11th school board meeting agenda.  That meeting starts at 6:30PM, at Snoqualmie City Hall, 38625 SE River Street.

Comments

  1. Based on my listening to the work session — I don’t think a decision is coming ANY time soon. 🙁

  2. Couldn’t agree more Danna. I also was invited to participate in one of the group sessions, and appreciated the opportunity to learn and add my two cents. However, I left being somewhat more confused and distraught than when I went into the meeting.

    Your op-ed hints at this, but I think the School Board is simply “gun-shy” of making a decision – any decision. The lack of being able to pass a Bond in the past has the Board and the Administration completely tied up in knots, not knowing which direction to go or what to do. Almost like they are so afraid of making a decision as they might make another Bond issue “mistake”.

    Though far be it from me to say this, as I certainly don’t want the job, but someone needs to just stand up at the plate, take a stand and say, “this is what we are going to do – now let’s just do it!” Will it be what everyone wants? No. Will everyone be in agreement? No. But as you correctly point out, now is the time for positive agreement , compromise and a solid plan for the future – from the very people that we elect and trust with that future.

    • Laurie Gibbs says

      Excellent points, Danny. The school board did finally agree to to move forward with Option A and begin vetting it with the community. This Option calls for the renovation of MSHS and the construction of a new elementary school. This option will serve to accomplish four things: Renovate and modernize MSHS to comply with code/standards and to add additonal classroom and programming space to accommodate students for a long time; return 9th graders to the high school campus and return SMS to a middle school; construct a new elementary school to accommodate student projections and provide needed space to implement state mandated full-day kindergarten; and, lastly, allow the District to implement state of the art facilities for STEM programming and other need educational needs at the modernized high school that can be made available to ALL 9-12 students. This is a win-win situation all the way around. Although I know it may have appeared the current Board was unsure of what direction to take, it appears they made a decision based upon what the majority of focus group participants wanted. Seeing the focus groups were comprised of administrators, faculty members and citizens from across the District, I would tend to believe this bond measure will get sufficient support to pass. Is it an expensive undertaking? Yes. Will things get more expensive if nothing is done? Yes. Have we already spent enough money on bonds that have not passed? Yes. Do we need to look at ways that solve multiple problems and give us the best return on our #1 investment–our kids? Yes. That last question sums up this bond perfectly!

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