Lake Washington School Board proposes bond measure to house growing enrollment

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The following are a press release from the LWSD and a letter to parents and guardians titled, "Bond Update" from Superintendent Dr. Traci Pierce:

 

Overcrowding now in some areas; 4,000 more students expected in eight years

 

At its March 3 meeting, the Lake Washington School District Board of Directors voted to place a $404 million bond measure on the April 22 ballot. The bonds would build schools to house projected enrollment growth and reduce current overcrowding.

 

“The district needs to act immediately to address our urgent and critical need for additional classroom space,” noted Dr. Traci Pierce, superintendent.

 

The measure would provide funds to build three new elementary schools (two in Redmond and one in Kirkland) and a new middle school in Redmond. Juanita High School in Kirkland would be rebuilt to house a larger number of students and a 600-student STEM-focused high school would also be built on that campus. Lake Washington High School, which was designed before the district reconfigured from three grades in high school to four grades, would receive an addition.

 

A $755 bond measure on the February ballot earned close to 58% yes votes, which fell just short of the 60% supermajority needed to pass.

 

“We heard concerns from the community about the overall size of the February bond measure,” noted Board President Jackie Pendergrass. “These projects are needed now to reduce current overcrowding and keep up with the rapid growth in our enrollment.”

 

Projects that were part of the February ballot that are not included in the April ballot measure would be considered in four years. Those include modernizing Kamiakin and Evergreen Middle Schools; modernizing Kirk, Mead and Rockwell Elementary Schools; adding an internationally-focused grades 6-12 secondary school in Sammamish and adding on to Eastlake High School.

 

“The board’s plan allows the district to first address the immediate need for additional space, and then to engage the community around the longer term need to continue to modernize our aging school facilities,” noted Dr. Pierce.

 

Cost of the measure to taxpayers is estimated to be 25 cents per thousand dollars of assessed value. That would amount to about $124 per year for the owner of the average home in Lake Washington School District, valued at approximately $495,000.

 

“This decision was very difficult,” noted Board President Pendergrass. “The quality of our school district attracts families, which benefits our communities. But it also means we need to create room in our schools for those children. Ultimately, we must rely on our communities to fund those classrooms.”

 

The following letter to LWSD parents and guardians was forwarded to us for publication:

Dear LWSD Parents/Guardians: 

The purpose of this email is to provide you with an update regarding the bond measure, including:

  • Data that helps the district understand why the February bond measure did not pass;
  • March 3, 2014 decision made by the LWSD Board of Directors
  • Rationale for the Board’s decision; and,
  • Next steps.

Data that helps the district understand why the February bond measure did not pass

The $755 million dollar February 2014 bond measure received nearly 58% approval, just short of the 60% needed for the measure to pass. Based on the results, the district took immediate action to collect data to understand why the measure did not pass. The district secured a research firm to conduct a random sample statistically valid community poll. Over 400 residents were interviewed.

The key findings of the poll reflect that while nearly 3 in 4 residents give the district an “A” or “B” for overall performance (one of the highest grades found by the research firm in over 20 years) the highest negative influence was the total amount of the bond and concern about tax increases.

 Click here for the full report.

March 3, 2014 decision made by the LWSD Board of Directors

Following multiple hours of discussion regarding options, at both the February 24 work session and the March 3 Board meeting, the Board voted to place a $404 million bond measure on the April 22 ballot. This measure will allow the district to address its critical and urgent need to build new schools and classrooms needed to accommodate growing enrollment and avoid overcrowding. The following projects are part of the April 22 measure:

  • 3 new elementary schools (two in Redmond and one in Kirkland);
  • 1 new middle school in Redmond;
  • The re-build and expansion of Juanita High School in Kirkland;
  • The STEM focused high school on the Juanita High School campus in Kirkland; and,
  • An addition at Lake Washington High School in Kirkland.

Click here to access presentations from the March 3, 2014 Board Meeting.

Click here to access video from the March 3, 2014 Board Meeting.

Rationale for the Board’s decision and next steps

The needs of the district have not changed. Our enrollment continues to grow and we need additional classroom space to avoid overcrowding. We also need to continue to plan to address our aging schools. The April 2014 bond measure will allow the district to move forward with the most critical projects needed to meet the urgent needs. We must move forward to accommodate growth and avoid overcrowding in the next four years.

The remaining projects that were originally part of the February 2014 measure are planned for a future bond measure in 2018. These future projects include those needed to accommodate longer term growth and those needed to continue our progress to modernize aging facilities. Future 2018 projects include: an addition at Eastlake High School and a new internationally-focused 6-12 school in Sammamish; and modernization of Kamiakin and Evergreen Middle Schools; and, Kirk, Mead and Rockwell Elementary Schools.

This plan reduces the overall cost of the 2014 measure that allows the district to address the most urgent needs now. The district can then plan for a 2018 measure to address longer-term needs, and we can continue to engage in community dialogue with respect to our approach to modernization.

Next Steps

The April 22 election is in just seven weeks. Over the next seven weeks the district will work hard on an informational campaign that educates voters on: 1) the measure and its costs; 2) the continued need for space to accommodate our growing student population in the Lake Washington School District; and 3) the implications for the district should the April measure not pass. 

Please watch for additional information coming soon, and thank you for your continued support of our district and our students.

Sincerely,

 

Dr. Traci Pierce

Superintendent