Task force to propose second area high school

The Snoqualmie Valley School District Facilities Task Force has spent the summer looking at ways to address the Snoqualmie Valley's impending student population growth.

At a Sept. 14 Snoqualmie Valley District Board of Directors meeting, the task force intends to reveal its findings in a formal presentation. The board will then be expected to make a decision regarding the next step by Oct. 12.

In a unanimous agreement, the task force concluded that a second high school proportional to Mount Si High School is the best option for dealing with the Upper Valley's future student population growth.

Along with this recommendation, the task force is also developing four bond options to help pay for the suggested new high school and will present its findings Sept. 14.

Superintendent Joel Aune said a bond proposal could go before the public this spring. The goal would be to have a functioning new high-school facility by fall 2011. There is not yet a proposed location.

Don McConkey, district assistant superintendent, gave a "snapshot" of the process the task force used in coming to its conclusions at the Aug. 31 school board meeting.

Though commissioned in February by the school board to look into options, the board is under no obligation to follow any suggestions by the task force, said Kathryn Lerner, a member of the task force.

The charge of the task force was to submit recommendations to the board concerning the district's prioritization of new construction projects, modernization projects and maintenance and repair of existing school district facilities.

The new comprehensive high-school concept was selected because it would result in two approximately same-sized high schools of about 1,500 students each.

It would also create the fewest number of new buildings, resulting in lower cost, and would avoid extensive remodeling of existing buildings.

Additionally, it would avoid disruptive transitions, making it the "simplest" option that met the task force's criteria.

This option was also the most highly favored one, according to public meeting feedback the task force received.

The decision was made after extensive dialogue with residents, Lerner said.

The decision-making criteria also considered financial and geographical realities, enrollment projections and community input (called "political realities" by the task force), Lerner said.

The additional options considered included an independent freshman campus and a grade-level reconfiguration concept (altering the current middle schools - grades 6-8 - to junior high schools - grades 7-9).

Initially, the task force also considered a "satellite" campus option, but feedback proved that such an option was not favorable enough to continue to investigate, Lerner said.

Twenty-three people make up the task force - selected by board recommendation - including parents, teachers, district staff members, one community member, a high-school principal and a high-school student.

The task force first gathered in March of this year to begin exploring ideas.

(A previous task force was created in 2002, which led to the voter-approved $53 million bond in 2002 for a new elementary and middle school, upgraded athletic facilities and fiber-optic communications.)

After establishing procedures, rules and guidelines, the task force held multiple public meetings to collect citizen feedback.

"We said from the beginning, we need to keep the public

engaged and informed," Lerner said, calling the ongoing dialogue a critical tool in the decision-making process.

For information, call the Snoqualmie Valley School District Administration Office at (425) 831- 8000.

The Facilities Task Force will hold two additional public meetings:

Monday, Sept. 11, from 7-8:30 p.m. at Mount Si High School, 8651 Meadowbrook Way S.E. in Snoqualmie

Tuesday, Sept. 12, from 7-8:30 p.m. at Chief Kanim Middle School, 32627 S.E. Redmond-Fall City Road in Fall City.

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