News

District won't go after May bond

With its third consecutive capital projects bond headed for failure, the Snoqualmie Valley School District will take time to consider how to address students' short- and long-term needs in schools where overcrowding is becoming a progressively bigger problem.

At the school board's regular meeting on March 20, Superintendent Joel Aune said the district will shuffle around some modular classroom buildings to alleviate the immediate issue of crowding at Mount Si High School, which is more than 200 students over capacity. The bond would have funded portable classrooms at Mount Si while building a second high school.Now, the board will step back to reflect on longer-term solutions to relieving overcrowding, and does not plan to put a fourth bond issue on the May ballot, Aune said.

"We think [the bond proposal is] a good plan; it makes sense and addresses those needs. But we're stuck at that 58.5 percent 'yes' vote. It's time for us to back up a little bit and look at this thing in some different ways," he said.

This is the bond's third time coming just short of the 60 percent supermajority it needs to pass.


Why did it fail?

Community members gave their opinions as to why this measure, which had a lower price tag than the previous two, failed.

One man said he was opposed to having $4.5 million of the $189-million bond go to sports, saying "the priority should be academics."

A Tolt Hill woman said that voters from the lower Valley had concerns about the new high school being built in North Bend, a long bus ride from their homes.

Joe Monahan of Fall City said he didn't have confidence in the population projections the district had used to justify the need for a new high school, and feared the facility wasn't actually needed.

"It's asking an awful lot to come at us with a $100-million potential throwaway," he said.

Another parent said that voters unhappy with controversies related to the high school's Martin Luther King, Jr. Day assembly and Day of Silence were sending a message to the district.

Those two issues have packed school board meetings since the January assembly, where one Mount Si teacher booed and another pointedly questioned the anti-gay-rights views of invited speaker Ken Hutcherson. Some parents and community members have since protested the school's participation in the Day of Silence, a nationwide event to raise awareness of discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans-gendered and questioning students. Earlier this month, the school's principal said the event would happen on April 25 as scheduled.

It's also possible some voters, faced with a weakening economy and record high gas prices, couldn't stomach the thought of increased property taxes. Around the state, 12 of 14 school-construction bond measures on the March 11 ballot failed, Aune said.


What now?

One parent suggested clearly communicating to voters the negative consequences of not passing the measure. Aune said that though the facilities task force had looked at the options of double-shifting and year-round schooling at Mount Si, the district wanted to avoid emphasizing those possibilities as scare tactics in its campaigning.

"The voter typically does not respond well to that kind of threatening, negative tactic, and we want to be careful in that respect," Aune said.

District Vice President Kathryn Lerner said the district should bring parents together by talking about bonds in terms of classroom learning, and not just construction.

"It can be a challenge to talk about just selling buildings. It's time to talk about what happens in those buildings, as well," she said.

Aside from the May election, the district has two other chances to put a bond on the ballot this year, in August and November. The first 2009 election will be in early February.

A solution can't come too soon for parents who are considering leaving the district if it doesn't come up with a way of alleviating overcrowding by the time their children reach high school.

"We have to make decisions about where are kids are going to go to school. Do we stay or do we go? That's my dilemma," said the mother of a sixth-grader.

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