The Snoqualmie Valley School District Board is considering new boundaries of the Dahlgren property in North Bend, as it prepares for growth to hit the city and possible capacity constraints at Opstad Elementary to follow.
The Dahlgren property, located along Southeast North Bend Way, is the site of a large multifamily housing project expected to bring 132 townhomes and 80 apartments to the city. The development is currently under construction, with clearing and grading starting in 2020, and sits within the service boundary for Opstad Elementary.
The district is looking to move the property into North Bend Elementary’s boundary in an effort to even out the distribution of students and prevent overcrowding at Opstad as the district works to address long-term capacity needs and avoid installing more portable classrooms.
The board expects to review the Dahlgren property boundary change at the next meeting on June 16, with possible action, and is taking public comment until June 12.
“Over the last 15 years, because of the growth in the district, we’ve had quite a number of reboundry efforts,” Assistant Superintendent Ryan Stokes told the school board June 2. “They’re not fun and no one ever wants to go through them.”
A huge influx of students have come into Valley schools over the past 15 years, with enrollment numbers in all six elementary schools surpassing the available permanent classroom capacity.
That lack of space, fast growth and new state laws requiring class size reductions at the K-3 level have forced the district to respond quickly and place a significant number of portables at its schools — particularly at the elementary level.
The district as a whole presently has two elementary schools worth of portables between its six schools, equal to about 38% of its overall elementary capacity, according to its 2022 capital facilities plan.
The Dahlgren reboundry comes as Opstad Elementary is projected to surpass its available student capacity — including space from both portables and permanent classrooms — by 2026, according to a third-party demographer hired by the district. Making the boundary shift is projected to keep both schools under capacity until 2031, giving Opstad about a 20 student buffer.
North Bend Elementary has a more significant number of portables, making up almost half of its overall capacity, but currently has availability for 152 students, compared to 98 at Opstad, where the boundary is projected to see a disproportionate amount of growth over the next decade.
According to the district, there are 756 units worth of recently completed or in-progress housing projects in Opstad’s boundary, compared to just 127 with North Bend’s. That includes the Dahlgren property, which is projected to eventually contribute 65 students, according to the demographer.
Overcrowding and the amount of portables at North Bend Elementary and Opstad Elementary have been somewhat of a frustration for members of the North Bend City Council. Last year, council members voiced these concerns after approving the district’s capital facility plan.
In response to those frustrations, the two legislative bodies held a joint meeting last December to discuss facility improvements and look at the district’s preliminary long-range facility plan, which looks at the district’s capital needs in three phases over the next 20 years.
That plan is currently being worked on by a committee after it was stalled by the pandemic. Thus far, the plan has identified Snoqualmie Middle School, North Bend Elementary and Fall City Elementary as the most in need of repair based on factors including the age of the building, the number of portables and projected growth. Among its six elementary schools, North Bend and Opstad ranked as the first and third most in need, respectively.
The tentative first phase of that plan, which would need board approval and a subsequent bond approved by voters, would look at a replacement or expanded North Bend Elementary and Fall City Elementary and a new Snoqualmie Middle School. Opstad is planned to receive an expansion or rebuild in phase two.
“We felt like it’s helpful to communicate to the community that we can’t address all the needs immediately, but we would like to have a plan that lays out ‘yes, you are on the radar,’” Stokes said.