School Board Zeroes in on Future Bond, Agrees to Focus on Option A

SVSD school board members have specific thoughts and opinions when it comes to three possible future bond options, and they got a chance share their thoughts and  examine recent bond focus group results during a 2-hour work session on Tuesday; one that continued into their regular board meeting on July 11, 2013.

By the end of Thursday’s more than hour-long discussion and public comment period, a new school bond direction was indicated by theboardpicture2012-13 board – a bond taking its direction from community focus group results and years of work by multiple district committees.

The board determined it wants to take only option A to the community for more public vetting, with what appeared to be, the intent of getting a bond onto the February or April 2014 election ballot.

Board president, Scott Hodgins, called option A a solution that gets the district where it needs to be – back to three middle schools, adding a new elementary school and modernizing and expanding Mount Si High School, whose aging structure is flood-prone and one a recent structural analysis also said has seismic deficiencies.

Hodgins admitted he expected the focus group results to point toward option B, but was pleasantly surprised that the majority of focus group members opted for option A.  In an interview last week, Hodgins said he is firmly in support of option A, as it gives the district the money and flexibility to solve all capacity and programming issues for the next 10-15 years.

Dan Popp admitted he still had some worries, but was willing to move forward with option A and thoroughly vet that bond scenario with the public.  Marci Busby was not so willing, saying she wanted district administrators and educators to weigh in more, find out what they think.  Board members Hodgins, Doy and Simpson all concurred that administrators were involved as focus group participants and said they will also be involved and consulted during the continued  process.

Busby warned that the district doesn’t yet know what it wants from a new 21st century high school, to which Hodgins pushed back, reminding the room that hours  of committee work from three 2007 and 2008 bonds (ones that attempted to build a 2nd high school and modernize Mount Si) had already helped define what the community wants in a modernized high school.  He said much of the leg work had already been done and the district can “honor the past” by moving forward and incorporating past research and knowledge into the upcoming process.

Tavish MacLean, who is running unopposed for the open District 1 school board seat, addressed his future board members, saying the focus group results are a clear, qualitative result that lends the board direction.  MacLean further added that the board was elected to make decisions and should apply judgment, be decisive and move forward.

Part of that “moving forward” process includes architects examining the feasibility of making the first new building constructed at the high school large enough to bring 9th graders back to the main Mount Si campus; a move that has a two-for-one benefit:  1) It brings Snoqualmie Middle School back online as the district’s 3rd middle school quicker and  2) It ends the disruption and costs of high school teachers and students traveling between two campuses, also expanding freshmen opportunities by providing them access to all classes offered in a comprehensive high school setting.

Carolyn Simpson said doing this would address the strong and prominent feedback from the focus groups, which was the desire to return to three middle schools as fast as possible and ease middle school overcrowding at Twin Falls and Chief Kanim.

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