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Bond decision: District 410 board is divided on funding for new facilities

Option A squared off against Plan B Thursday evening, in the school bond arena.

In one corner, the eight-year, $200 million proposal to build a sixth elementary school and remodel Mount Si High School over the next decade, better known as Option A, looked like the heavyweight. In the opposite corner, challenger Plan B, at $30 million for a sixth elementary school only was no featherweight, but it looked like one in contrast.

The Snoqualmie Valley School Board discussed, but didn’t act on either choice Sept. 26, but will address them again Oct. 10. The delayed does not preclude a bond measure by February, but further delay could push a bond to April.

Most board members agreed that the elementary school, first on the schedule in Option A, with a goal of opening in 2015, was top priority.

Preliminary enrollment numbers for this school year supported the idea, showing more than 550 students at every elementary, more than 600 at one, and more than 700 at another.

The board authorized TCF Architecture to begin designs for the new elementary on Sept. 12, in hopes of accelerating the process and opening the new building in 2015. At their last meeting, they took a critical look at funding, and several board members worried voters might have “sticker shock” as Marci Busby described it, and reject a bond for the full Option A amount outright.

“To me, the elementary school, getting that (bond) passed, takes precedence,” said Busby. “Have we considered just pulling the elementary school element out, doing that first, then looking at the rest?”

Yes, the board had considered it, but they had also reached consensus in August to pursue Option A, said board member Geoff Doy, who was opposed to dividing the bond. He reminded Busby and Dan Popp, also hesitant about what he called “voter appetite” for a big bond, that the board approved the start of a “vetting” process to assess community reaction to Option A back in August.

“My personal view is that we need to address elementary, middle and high school,” he said, “and my personal preference would be that we do that in one shot.” However, he said, the district could consider repackaging the bond, or even running an elementary-only bond later in the year if a full Option A bond failed this spring.

Popp questioned the wisdom of repackaging, asking Doy, “Does it give the community a sense of uncertainty if, in the process of discussing (passing Option A), we create a plan B?”

Doy agreed that it did, and said, “I think we should say this is the right thing to do, and we’re going to do it.”

Carolyn Simpson commented that Option A “could be the solution for facilities for a very long time,” and address all levels of education. Freshmen could return to the remodeled high school when the first phase of construction was complete, possibly in the fall of 2018, freeing up the freshman campus building for use as a middle school again.

Busby was unmoved, telling the board, “I think we need a backup plan… that’s a lot of money.” She supported an approach of “… smaller increments, prioritize, get that through, don’t put everything at risk.”

The next school board meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 10, at Snoqualmie City Hall.

 

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