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School district nears bond vote

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LOWER VALLEY - To support next week's Riverview School District bond, parents and teachers held a "Fields, Arts, Roofs" march and rally on Saturday.

The march began at Tolt Middle School in Carnation and concluded almost five hours later at Cedarcrest in Duvall. Many supporters walked the entire way between the two cities, and others joined in Duvall before going up the road to the high school. The purpose of the march was to show that parents of Riverview students in both Carnation and Duvall, formerly reported to be at odds, were now united in their quest for school improvements.

Another reason parents from each city came together is because the district has historically had a hard time winning approval for its bond measures.

The controversial subject of public funding for athletic fields has again taken center stage in the Lower Valley. On May 15, voters in the Riverview School District will decide the outcome of a $5.75 million bond measure that would build an athletic field and track at Cedarcrest High School, while addressing an array of other issues.

In creating the bond, Riverview board members decided unanimously in March to package together several elements instead of running them separately. They include roof repairs for Stillwater Elementary, Tolt Middle School and Cedarcrest, structural improvements for Tolt, construction of a multipurpose athletic field and track and the completion of a performing-arts center at Cedarcrest High School. The bond requires 60 percent voter approval to pass, and if it wins support, it would be paid off over 20 years.

District officials said the cost to individual homeowners will average 21.2 cents per thousand dollars of assessed property value. Riverview plans on paying down the bond with $750,000 most likely to be awarded from a lawsuit it won against a roofing supplier. The lawsuit is currently under appeal and should be settled within 14 to 18 months. The remainder of the $1.2 million lawsuit would go toward legal fees.

Cedarcrest's performing-arts center improvements would include stage rigging and drapery, stage lighting devices and accessories and a storage area for drama equipment. Students and community groups, from the local dance troop to the Seattle Symphony, have performed in the facility.

Repairs to Tolt Middle School would include improving the pitch and reroofing buildings A, E and G; structural repairs and reroofing for building L; and structural and seismic upgrades to buildings E and G. At Stillwater Elementary, officials say the existing roof needs to be removed and replaced with a triple-ply bonded roofing material called "Siplast." For Cedarcrest, phase four and five, the music room, gym room and some classrooms would be reroofed.

The thorny part of the bond measure, as it has been for the past decade, is funding for athletic upgrades at Cedarcrest. When it was built in 1993, the high school did not have outside athletic facilities. The school district had put forward five bond measures to build the high school before a pared-down, $11 million version that did not include athletic facilities was approved by voters in 1990. Since that time, five athletic-facility bonds have failed - including one last November - ranging from less than $3 million to more than $6 million.

"Overall I think [voters] need to remember how many hundreds of kids are affected, not only at the high-school level, but at the elementary schools with roofs that need repairs; at the middle school with roofs; and the fact that they'll benefit from expanded athletic programs on their fields; and then at the high school with roofs being repaired and with P.E. and athletic fields and the performing-arts center. We're talking about effecting thousands of kids in our district," said Cedarcrest Assistant Principal Ray Labate.

There are opponents to the bond measure, and one of them has even created a Web site against the district's proposal. The Valley Record contacted the creator of the Web site, but the person declined to speak on the record.

Detractors say the district could build a combination football and soccer field for less than $300,000, and they claim the district will be forced to spend more than $2 million over the next 20 years to maintain the athletic field, according to a statement against the bond measure prepared by Arden Gremmert, Karen Hill and Dean Halstead. School-district officials dispute those numbers.

The proposed athletic facilities take up almost $3.3 million of the bond measure and include an all-weather football/soccer field with synthetic turf, a rubberized running rack, equipment for field events, uncovered aluminum bleachers with a 750-seat capacity, a 1,200-square-foot restroom and concession building and an electrical and lighting system.

"Cedarcrest High School is the only major public school in Washington state where student-athletes must travel to practice or play after-school sports," said Josh Garcia, Cedarcrest's athletic director. "Many students travel 13 miles to Carnation or even further to Woodinville to practice or play on other schools' fields. This not only increases the amount of time they must invest in after-school sports, but there are safety issues as students spend time driving or carpooling on rural roads."

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