Protecting our investment in school facilities

Guest Columnist

  • Friday, October 3, 2008 2:48am
  • Opinion

Over the past several months, members of the Snoqualmie Valley School District Facilities Task Force have written articles for the Valley Record on topics ranging from district demographics to the options we have considered for new schools. In all the talk of new facilities, we often overlook the needs of our existing facilities.

We have nine schools currently operating in the district. Some of these schools are as new as one year (Cascade View Elementary School), while others have not been updated or remodeled for 18 years (Opstad Elementary School). As our family has found with our 30-year-old house, systems need to be upgraded to protect our investment and ensure that the indoor environment is maintained for healthy living. Just in the past year we have replaced and upgraded our windows, furnace and roof. Many of our schools need the same improvements to ensure a healthy and safe learning environment and to protect our investments as taxpayers.

Each of our schools is in need of upgrades. For example, Opstad Elementary School requires a new roof, an upgraded heating/ventilation/air conditioning (HVAC) system and a new fire alarm system, in addition to numerous other upgrades. These system upgrades clearly improve the physical environment for Opstad students, teachers and staff, which better prepares everyone for the learning experience. Other schools are experiencing the same needs, including HVAC upgrades at Chief Kanim Middle School and Mount Si High School. These HVAC upgrades not only improve the air quality, but will also be less expensive to operate, both in terms of energy use and staff time needed for operations and maintenance. All of the schools, excepting Cascade View Elementary School, also need HVAC controls upgrades so they can be centrally controlled (by fewer staff) to ensure greater system stability and energy savings. Chief Kanim Middle School and North Bend Elementary School also require upgraded roof systems now to ensure that damaging leaks do not occur.

Other district-wide upgrades include security cameras at all schools to reduce the potential for vandalism, and play field upgrades at the three older elementary schools. As an example of community use and cost-sharing of our school facilities, the field upgrades will also improve the fields for rental by the Snoqualmie Valley Youth Soccer Association and Little League.

A significant proposed upgrade for Snoqualmie Middle School improves the parking and student drop-off/pick-up area. This would greatly improve student safety and reduce congestion during peak periods.

Upgrades are also needed to protect our investment in the facilities that support all the schools. District voters approved a transportation bond earlier this year that will purchase 29 much-needed buses for student transport. However, the bus parking and maintenance facilities, located at the district offices in Snoqualmie, will inadequately support these new buses. A first phase upgrade of central district facilities would include new parking, washing and refueling systems, as well as on-site surface water and off-site street and sidewalk improvements, needed to reduce the impact to the neighborhood.

A second phase would include a new maintenance and shop building for vehicle maintenance, a new operations building for warehouse needs, offices, a conference/boardroom and upgraded food storage and preparation capacity. With the growth of the district, these central facilities have not grown to ensure a continued high level of support to the teachers and students in our schools. In many ways these central facilities can be seen as the backbone of the district, providing support to students and teachers through transportation services, the school lunch program, central stores and planning, districtwide operations and maintenance staff and district leadership.

The Facilities Task Force has spent considerable time reviewing the needs of our existing schools and district facilities. We believe we will best serve our children by supporting these districtwide improvements that maintain and improve a strong learning environment while ensuring we protect our investment in these existing facilities. Detailed recommendations will be presented to the school board for review and approval in mid-September, along with recommendations for new construction projects.

If you would like to hear the final set of task force recommendations, please plan to attend one of two public meetings being held in September. Public comment will be welcome. Child care will once again be provided at both meetings.

Dates, times and locations are as follows:

Monday, Sept. 11

7-8:30 p.m.

Mount Si High School

8651 Meadowbrook Way S.E., Snoqualmie

Tuesday, Sept. 12

7-8:30 p.m.

Chief Kanim Middle School

32627 S.E. Redmond-Fall City Road, Fall City

Dwight Miller is a member of the Snoqualmie Valley School District Facilities Task Force. This is part of a biweekly series of guest columns written by task force members. For more details, visit and click on “Facilities Task Force Information.”

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