Dealing with reality not easy

By Laurel Marshall

Since last March, the Facilities Task Force, convened by the Snoqualmie Valley School District Board of Directors, has been working diligently to meet our goal to submit a list of recommendations to the board in late September or early October. The proposal will outline what facilities and system upgrades are needed in the next 15 years for our community's public schools.

We have analyzed our district's enrollment trends, possible uses of current facilities, different school models (such as a ninth-grade campus and satellite high schools) and have asked our community in public meetings for their preferences and concerns.

The next step this summer is for the task force to take an in-depth look at the three options presented at the June public meetings:

1. Second high school

2. Ninth-grade campus

3. Satellite high schools

The criteria for analyzing these three options are, first and foremost, what is best for the students. To this end, we will incorporate data from other school districts using these models, research from education professionals and input from our district professionals to assess the unique needs of our students. Other criteria includes:

1. Community input

2. Enrollment projections

3. Financial realities

4. Geographical realities

5. Political realities

This is a not an easy process. All of us want a thriving school district for our children that engages and inspires students, educates them for this increasingly complex world and mentors and influences them to graduate as productive and involved citizens. To this end, we need facilities in which both teachers and students have the space and resources to do this work.

The complexity in coming up with solutions for our exploding student population is to choose a strategy that best uses our existing facilities, builds new ones without overbuilding to prevent school closures when our student boom has declined and has the least financial burden to tax payers. For, as we have learned, building and remodeling facilities is expensive and becoming more expensive each year.

The task force is well aware that the recommendations presented to the school board must be supported by this community, for it will be the people in this community, possibly as early as next February, who will vote to financially support the building/remodeling of our schools. Quite frankly folks, we have to build/remodel new facilities for this district as soon as we can. Our high school was built for 1,110 students. Today, with portables, we can house 1, 235 students. This coming school year has a projected 1,450 students enrolled at the high school, with 1,800 students in the next four years.

I feel we have two choices as a community. We can choose to fund our schools and have a school district that educates and molds our young people to be successful and productive, or we can allow our schools to become woefully overcrowded and put stress on teachers, administrators and students that reduces the quality of education.

Thriving public schools benefit us all, not just families with children. If our school system suffers, it affects home values, crime rates, drug use and other social problems.

In the last five months of weekly task force meetings, I have gotten to know our district staff, teachers and parents. The commitment to our children, passion for our community and schools and the teamwork I've experienced has been extraordinary. We have a tremendous group of people in our community working for our children - let's give them the support they need and keep our community strong.

Feel free to contact task force members or district staff. We'd be happy to talk your ear off with what we have learned. Also, visit the Snoqualmie Valley School District Web site at www.snoqualmie.k12.wa.us for updated information. Thanks for supporting our community and schools.

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