By Kirk Harris
Snoqualmie Valley Citizens for Schools Chairperson
Election ballots will be delivered to mailboxes in the next few days, providing residents of the Snoqualmie Valley the chance to approve a school bond measure that will yield the most significant and positive effects for our community in over 60 years.
The measure put before voters is comprehensive because it addresses needs at all grade levels and serves the growing student population of all of our communities.
An additional elementary school, built within Snoqualmie, will relieve overcrowding currently experienced in elementary schools in North Bend and Fall City. Thankfully, the design and permitting phases for the new elementary school have nearly been completed. If this measure is approved, construction will begin this summer and the new elementary school will open in the fall of 2016.
The centerpiece of the proposal is the rebuilding and expansion of Mount Si High School (MSHS), a facility that was originally built in the early 1950’s. Rebuilding our Valley’s one traditional high school will benefit all students by creating a flexible school model that supports student collaboration, integrates technology, and includes better safety and security measures, and efficiencies in student movement to maximize instructional time with students.
Currently, Mount Si High School serves students in a sprawling design with numerous stand-alone buildings,including 19 portables, that have been added over the years. A new high school facility would be raised above floodway levels, add more science labs, provide needed parking, support career training, and improve facilities for the performing arts.
The building’s more detailed and final design will come after community and staff input and feedback is received during the project’s design and permitting phases.
Two other positive outcomes to rebuilding Mount Si High School include maintaining the freshman campus program and reinstating a third middle school.
To sustain the benefits achieved with the current freshman campus program, the new design would provide separation on the main campus to allow for focused support of ninth graders during their transitional year to high school. Their move to the main campus will help streamline high school scheduling, improve transportation logistics for students and teachers currently traveling between two campuses and increase programming opportunities for all high school students.
At the same time the freshmen move back to the main campus, the freshman campus building, formerly Snoqualmie Middle School, would be converted back into a middle school for grades 6-8. Bringing a third middle school online will alleviate overcrowding at Chief Kanim and Twin Falls Middle Schools, where currently 26 percent of students are in portables, and the schools’ common areas are overcrowded with more students than originally designed to accommodate.
This cost-efficient solution, a “two-for-one” repurposing of an existing school building, offers the School District and its taxpayers a third middle school without the substantial costs associated with building, operating, and maintaining a new middle school facility.
As chair of the Snoqualmie Valley Citizens for Schools, a non-profit organization, I believe that investment in this Valley’s future rests with voters approving this school bond. The returns on our investment will be realized for our children with improved educational facilities to address issues associated with overcrowding and aging facilities.
Approving this measure will also benefit our personal finances with increased property values because up to 15 percent of our home’s value is a buyer’s perception of school quality. Overcrowded and deteriorating facilities are not perceived as high quality, regardless of the quality education in the classrooms.
Over the past several months, I have had the pleasure to meet with many groups and present the merits of this proposal. Following these presentations this school bond measure has received endorsements from groups such as the Snoqualmie Valley Chamber of Commerce, Snoqualmie Valley PTSA’s, the city of Snoqualmie, Snoqualmie Valley Rotary, our Washington State Legislators, and this newspaper, the Snoqualmie Valley Record.
For more information and a complete list of endorsers, please visit www.yesforsvsdschools.com.
Please endorse this school bond measure in the most important of ways for our community, by voting “Yes,” by February 10.