Smaller bond to hit March ballots

A $27.5 million bond to make upgrades and repairs around Snoqualmie Valley schools and install six modular classroom buildings at Mount Si High School will hit ballots on March 10, 2009.

The Snoqualmie Valley School District board of directors approved the proposal Tuesday, Nov. 25.

The last failed bond, a $189.6 million measure defeated in March, would have built a second comprehensive high school and sixth elementary school.

This scaled-down version calls for $22.1 million for repairs and upgrades to existing facilities around the district.

“It’s not a nice-to-have list; it’s a must-have list,” district spokeswoman Carolyn Malcolm said of the upgrades, which include leaky roof repairs.

“This will save money in the long run so we don’t have to keep repairing them on a regular basis,” she added.

The bond will also include $3.6 million to add six modular classrooms to alleviate classroom overcrowding at the high school. The portables will be placed where the school’s tennis courts are currently located because it’s the only suitable space on the campus, which is in a flood plain.

The board opted to relocate tennis courts to a practice field across Meadowbrook Way to avoid affecting physical education programming. The tennis court relocation is estimated at $1.8 million.

Stephen Kangas of North Bend took issue with that ticket price in tough economic times.

“Tennis courts is frankly a luxury,” he said. “We need to be focusing on academics.”

Board member Kathryn Lerner responded that the tennis courts get heavy use from students.

Jerry Hillburn, a teacher at Snoqualmie Middle School, praised the proposal and predicted that voters would approve it.

“Thanks for listening to us,” he said. “This is an outstanding plan.”

The proposal is a departure from the board’s idea, floated this fall, of converting Snoqualmie Middle School into an annex for the high school, and changing boundary lines so all middle schoolers would attend either Twin Falls or Chief Kanim. That option was scrapped after community members expressed concern that the overcrowding issue would simply get pushed down from the high school to younger, more vulnerable students.

Malcolm said the new plan is sensitive to voter apprehension, the national economic crisis, a slowed enrollment growth rate, a slowdown in local new housing construction and uncertainty around the effects that Washington state’s deficit will have on education funding.

If passed, the bond would cost the owner of a $400,000 home about $140 a year in increased property taxes.

The board passed the proposal with a 3-0 vote. Board member Kathryn Lerner abstained from voting after expressing concern that not enough community members support a plan so dramatically different from the three previous bond measures.

Lerner called for “more conversation before pulling the trigger” on the proposal.

She also said the district should explore adding a fourth lunch to the schedule at Mount Si High School, and creating open lunches for juniors and seniors to ease overcrowding in common areas.

With the March bond decided, the board will now look to longer-range planning. Malcolm said the district’s slowed rate of growth allows more time for research and feasibility studies on what direction to take.

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