Board member Geoff Doy said the board’s work thus far is on track to get a bond out to the public in late 2013. What will be on that future bond still isn’t concrete, but it does appear any option will be larger than the $56 million 2011 bond.
The increase is due to something the board agreed upon last night, which was the need for a new elementary school on Snoqualmie Ridge – a need rooted in enrollment and coupled by needed additional classroom space to accommodate state-mandated full day kindergarten in 2016. A new school would also relieve some crowding at other SVSD elementary schools.
Another board agreement described by Doy was a comprehensive 9-12th grade high school on the current Mount Si High School site, explaining that the public voted down a second high school three times. Doy said a modernized, comprehensive high school will improve educational programming with flexible spaces for STEM, CTE and Performing Arts courses.
The bond’s other key facility component is still being fine-tuned, but it does appear the board will vet two facility options to the community: 1) Modernizing, remodeling, expanding Mount Si High School or 2) Building a replacement middle school on Snoqualmie Ridge and putting approximately $10 million of improvements into Mount Si High School. That $10 million amount is the maximum allowed unless the building is brought up to flood code.
The issue of future enrollment seemed to be eased last night. Board members Dan Popp and Carolyn Simpson met with the district’s demographer, Calm River. According to Popp, the demographer said his projections are probably overstated and SVSD will (most likely) never hit his high estimates.
It was revealed that some of enrollment projections were based on outdated 2006 data from the Puget Sound Regional Council. The demographer told Popp that enrollment is “really difficult” to project outside of decade and recommended the board develop a 5 or 10-year plan. It was also mentioned that Calm River’s 10-year low enrollment forecast is probably still higher than what will occur.
The cities of Snoqualmie and North Bend and King County have told board members that only by building another community the size of Snoqualmie Ridge (which municipalities say is not happening now or anytime in the 10-year future) would SVSD enrollment grow as projected by Calm River.
The board said looking at enrollment 10 years down the road, they are comfortable estimating a high school capacity of 2,000 – 2,100. This is based on students currently in SVSD elementary schools and home building forecasts from local municipalities.
Board President Scott Hodgins jokingly said that barring a new master-planned community being “built on top of Mt. Si,” a Mount Si High School expansion for 2000-2100 students is realistic. He warned any bigger option brings increased costs due to a required and expensive parking structure.
Geoff Doy talked of bringing a couple of facilities options, including all associated costs and educational impacts, to the public for input before finalizing the future bond.
Doy referred to the first option as board member Marci Busby’s “Do Nothing” Option [referring to Mount Si], that included a new middle school, a smaller monetary investment in Mount Si High School and making the 9th grade campus permanent.
Doy said this option would do nothing to fix the biggest issues at Mount Si, including flood-proofing the aging 60-year old structure and remodeling the building for needed, flexible 21st century learning space. As stated at prior meetings, it also adds the operational costs (possibly $700,000-$1 million) of an additional school to the district’s annual budget.
The second option would be remodeling/modernizing and expanding Mount Si, adding capacity to bring 9th graders back to Mount Si and utilize an on-site freshman campus concept. This option would restore Snoqualmie Middle School as the district’s 3rd middle school in the future.
Board members talked of how this option would protect Mount Si from floods, fix the aging building for the foreseeable future and improve educational programs and space.
Doy stated the increased cost of the modernization option could be off-set by selling district land on Snoqualmie Ridge and state matching funds, which could be a large amount if modernizing/re-building Mount Si. The Auburn School District recently passed a bond to modernize Auburn High School and the district anticipates their $110 million project will qualify for $29 million in state matching funds, reducing the final cost to taxpayers.
The board still has more work to do, which will be accomplished in another work session on March 9th. But they’re getting closer and it sounds like they plan to involve the community in subsequent steps, educating community members about the facility options and their associated long-term financial costs, as well as the educational benefits of each.
Geoff Doy said at the beginning of the discussion, the board wants to bring a bond to the ballot in late 2013 that has “wide community support.”