It was fall 2010. For a few years, SVSD enrollment was on an up-tick. In 2007 and 2008, three separate bond attempts to add a second high school failed. Mt. Si High School was still growing. Enrollment numbers showed a large bubble of students beginning to enter middle school, mainly attributed to Snoqualmie’s population growth. A committee formed to address the issue. The task? Find space to accommodate the incoming high school growth. A fourth bond attempt for a second high school was off the table. Voters rejected this three previous times. An alternative? Use nearby Snoqualmie Middle School as Mount Si’s Freshman Learning Center. Capacity problem solved.
With a solution on the table and approved by the SVSD school board, a $53 million school bond was put on the February 2011 King County Election Ballot. If approved, a replacement middle school would be built on Snoqualmie Ridge and SMS would go to the high school as a freshman campus. Two weeks prior to the vote, debate erupted. Enrollment numbers were called into question. Yes, there was a bubble coming, but there was also a trend occurring at the high school. Freshman classes starting with 400 kids were dwindling down to around 300 by senior year. So although larger classes were entering MSHS, enrollment in higher grade levels was shrinking. As a result, Mount Si enrollment was staying within capacity. Critics asked if enrollment needs still justified the 2013 annexation of Snoqualmie Middle School?
That February school bond failed by one vote. There was weeks of drama, even a formal recount funded by parents. The district decided to run the bond again in May, hoping to get that one needed vote. The second bond attempt also failed, the victim of more (slower than expected) enrollment growth debate. The issue now? How to proceed. Snoqualmie Valley School District administration was on record stating it needed to annex SMS to add high school capacity and regardless of the bond outcome, Snoqualmie Middle School would become part of Mount Si High School in 2013.
So here we sit. What will the district do with SMS? Should we assume it will become part of Mt. Si High School in 2013, as that is public record? Some parents support the move and some do not. Supporters love the idea of a Freshman Learning Center giving 9th graders their own space as they mature during that transitional first high school year. Others oppose it, wondering about the logistics and impact on education. Will kids still get the same class opportunities as freshman if they are on a separate campus – especially if they are taking year ahead courses. Then there are those who have no opinion about a Freshman Learning Center. They only see that the cited reason for annexing SMS, enrollment capacity needs, no longer exists in 2013.
Moving forward without a replacement school for SMS doesn’t solve the capacity/growth issue. It displaces it to the secondary school level by squeezing three middle schools into two. It requires spending money on portables to fit 1,500 middle schools students into two schools with capacity for only 1,100 – 1,200. Will the district spend money on those portables while some newly installed high school portables may sit empty? Is this a wise financial decision during a time of tight budgets? Why annex SMS and bus Snoqualmie kids to North Bend and Fall City for middle school if Mount Si is not at capacity?
This is a school board election year. This is important information for valley voters. Will the school board move forward with the 2013 annexation of Snoqualmie Middle School without a replacement building? Is the ultimate decision to become a two middle school district again? This summer, the SVSD School Board decided it had time to study the issue – that the decision to annex wasn’t imminent right now. School Board President Dan Popp said, “We all understand fully the potential impact of annexing SMS without a replacement building.” He added, “This is an opportunity for a patient review – and the need will hinge on a variety of factors, growth being a key one.”
What does that mean to the average voter? It means the board is not saying yes or no at this time. Will voters have an answer before the November 8th election? Should they? The issue is complex, but whatever the final decision, it will happen during the winning candidate’s new term.