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Mount Si High School to take over middle school? Citizen group zeroes in on satellite campus

A citizen committee charged with long-term planning has urged the Snoqualmie Valley School District to convert Snoqualmie Middle School to a satellite campus of overcrowded Mount Si High School.

In a unanimous vote, the district’s Long-Term Facilities Planning group presented the expansion as its top option to the Snoqualmie Valley School District Board of Directors on Thursday evening, Feb. 11.

A remodel of Mount Si High School took lesser priority for the group.

Breaking down the cost, capacity and impacts of both options, committee chairman Don McConkey said the estimated $50 million satellite campus project would maintain three middle schools, increase much-needed field and gym space for Mount Si and have a smaller impact on taxpayers. It is estimated at half the cost of a remodel.

If built in 2013, the two-year satellite campus project would annex Snoqualmie Middle School and rebuild a replacement middle school on the district’s 40-acre parcel on Snoqualmie Ridge, where Carmichael Street intersects with Elderberry Avenue and Southeast McCullough Street.

Using the same building design as Twin Falls Middle School would save the district in architectural fees and design costs.

“It’s a really efficient way to save money,” McConkey said.

The district’s three middle schools would each have a capacity of 650 students, totaling about 2,000 students.

Programs to be placed at the new high school campus would be determined by a study committee. That group would look at short- and long-term needs of students, future program needs and what best utilizes the space. Possible programs include a math-science center, fine arts center, high-tech center or freshman campus.

“The charge is: what is the best interest for our students as we look at their learning for the 21st century?” McConkey said.

The satellite campus has capacity for an extra 500 students — enough room to accommodate projected high school enrollment through spring 2017, roughly 2,350 students.

“By moving kids, it will be an advantage, because it minimizes the need to add more commons space at Mount Si,” McConkey said.

However, McConkey admitted that the project brings concerns about impact of split locations on student cohesiveness and transition of programs.

Mount Si remodel

A remodel and modernization of Mount Si High School would entail demolition and reconstruction of five areas of the school and construction of a second floor.

The current band/choir/kitchen/commons wing, the science wing, the gym, parking lot and the 300 wing would have to be torn down.

New additions would add about 30 more classrooms, house as many as 900 students, expand gym capacity to 2,500 and put a two-story parking garage where the current lot is now.

The project would take two years to complete, with construction posing a significant impact to students.

Comparing the two options, McConkey said that both address long-term problems and have long-term sustainability. However, he pegged the satellite campus option as preferrable.

Board member Scott Hodgins raised issue with the departure from an original goal of modernizing Mount Si.

“The model is now building a new high school and not doing anything to the original high school,” Hodgins said. “I’m concerned about the education program at the high school. The options don’t improve the high school itself.”

Board member Dan Popp, who was also part of the planning committee, responded that discussions are still in early stages. The committee, he said, wanted to address the most critical issue, overcrowding at Mount Si.

“We as a group really want to portray this conversation as having multiple steps, and addressing capacity is first,” Popp said. “What we’ll develop as we go on is a check box. We’ve got the capacity issues for classrooms and students. But what is the next critical issue?”

Hodgins reminded committee members that residents may want a solution to improve education for the high school as well as space.

“I will want to have that dialogue with the community,” he said. “Because I think there is a strategy to... take an exciting facility and create a small learning community, and still be in different locations.”

The school board will hear more community input between Friday, Feb. 26, and Wednesday, March 10. The board is expected to take action on Thursday, March 11.

The school district has posted information on the option at www.svsd410.org.

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