School district approves budget, suspends bus routes

A photo of Snoqualmie Valley School District’s electric bus. File photo courtesy of Snoqualmie Valley School District.

A photo of Snoqualmie Valley School District’s electric bus. File photo courtesy of Snoqualmie Valley School District.

Below is a round-up of news from the Snoqualmie Valley School District from the past week. The school year started Aug. 31 for those between grades 1 and 12.

Animal Farm

At its meeting on Aug. 26, the school board approved plans to utilize the old softball fields next to Mount Si High School to build a barn for animal science courses.

Students in animal science classes previously had to go offsite for these courses, including to Meadowbrook Farms.

“It was a challenge because students couldn’t get over there on a daily basis,” said Ryan Stokes, assistant superintendent for the district.

The barn will be 1,000 square feet and will feature space for raising goats and rabbits. Construction on the farm is expected to begin next fall.

The old softball field has been mostly unused by the district, Stokes said. The field often floods and is unusable for seven to eight months out of the year. The new barn will be raised to prevent flooding.

Bus driver shortage

The district announced that it has suspended several routes due to a bus driver shortage.

The shortage will have impacts at both the elementary and secondary level. The district said it focused on eliminating routes that had safe walking options, or had relatively small numbers of riders. The district also prioritized transit for disabled students.

This summer, the district hired nine new drivers, but will need at least eight more to fully service all routes in the district. If new drivers are hired by the district, the drivers will require eight weeks of training prior to picking up routes.

“We are in the process of training drivers, but we are short,” Superintendent Lance Gibbon said at the Aug. 12 school board meeting. “We’re hoping to persuade as many parents as possible to carpool.”

The district said route suspensions will last for at least the first eight to 10 weeks of school. Some routes could be reinstated if more drivers are hired, or if ridership is low on some routes.

Route shortages will be felt most heavily at the middle school level, where the district canceled four routes to three schools. Students at Cascade Elementary will continue to have no bus service like last year.

High school students will be provided bus service to and from corresponding middle schools and then to the high school. Parking at Mount Si High School will also be free for students this year.

If the situation worsens, the district may have to reduce routes at both the elementary and secondary levels.

To view the full list of route cancellations and the district’s statement, visit bit.ly/3gB3vv2.

If you are interested in applying for a bus driver position, visit svsd410.org/Page/97.

Budget approval

The Snoqualmie Valley School District School Board approved the district’s 2021-2022 annual budget at its Aug. 26 meeting.

The district plans to run a slim budget deficit this year, but overall, district officials said they are not concerned.

The district is projected to spend about $3.2 million more than it brings in this year. Compared to the 2020-2021 budget, the district expects to receive about $1 million less in revenue, while spending an additional $3 million.

The district will have to rely on $1.8 million in general fund reserves to balance the 2021-2022 budget. The district also relied on the general funds during the 2020-2021 school year, when the district used $2.2 million to balance the budget.

Stokes said the district increased spending this year out of the desire to not halt projects already in progress. He also said the district’s general fund balance remains in a similar place as last year mostly because of one-time COVID-19 relief funds provided by the state and federal government.

The majority of revenue the district lost this year was due to an enrollment decrease. Enrollment has risen 2% since last school year, but is still slightly below pre-pandemic levels. The state provided the district with a stabilization fund to account for the enrollment loss.

The district has used some of the one-time funding to hire more teachers and staff, with the goal of reducing class size, particularly at the elementary level, in order to curb learning loss from the pandemic.

Fees waived

As part of this year’s school budget, the district has eliminated class fees for all programs that take place during the school day.

This includes fees for art, CTE and music classes as well as a fee for a P.E. shirt. Students will only have to pay a fee for art or CTE classes if their projects use excess material beyond the scope of the assignment.

“It’s important no fees are associated with what students need,” said Superintendent Gibbon. “There might be a fee for scaling up, but you would do all the necessary projects in the class for free.”

Fees will still be applied for all extracurricular activities — including sports, drama, jazz band and clubs — and to yearbooks.


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