LWSD Responds to critical letter regarding bond

The following is a letter in response to a previously published letter by Paul Hall. -- Ed.

Dear Mr. Hall,

We appreciate the opportunity to respond to your concerns.
First, we would like to address the issues with respect to growth in the Lake Washington School District. Over the past several years the district has employed numerous strategies to accommodate its growing enrollment:

·         Over the past two years, the district has conducted two temporary boundary adjustments at the elementary level to accommodate growing enrollment. These adjustments have resulted in students being moved from their neighborhood school to another school, and have resulted in the addition of several portable classrooms at elementary sites.

·         In 2012, the district reconfigured to four year high schools. While this decision was made for its educational value, it also provided some temporary alleviation of overcrowding at the elementary level, as elementary schools now serve grades K-5 instead of K-6.

·         In 2011, the district ran and passed a levy that funded the creation of additional space at the high school level to accommodate grades 9-12. Additions at Eastlake High School and Redmond High School were built, and a new 9-12 Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) high school, serving 600 students in grades 9-12, was constructed.

District enrollment continues to increase. In fact, the Lake Washington School District had the highest growth rate between October 2011 and October 2013 of any school district in King County. Lake Washington is now the sixth largest district in the state and the fastest growing district in all of King County.

It is important to note the differences between the February 2014 bond measure and the April 2014 bond measure. The April bond measure focuses on the projects the district needs 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 upcoming 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;

·         A STEM-focused high school on the Juanita High School campus in Kirkland that will serve 600 students; and,

·         An addition at Lake Washington High School in Kirkland.

The remaining projects, those that were originally part of the February 2014 measure, but are not part of the April measure, are those needed to continue progress to modernize aging facilities and to accommodate longer term growth. These projects include: an addition at Eastlake High School; a new internationally-focused school for grades 6-12 in Sammamish; and, modernization of the following schools: Evergreen and Kamiakin Middle Schools, and Kirk, Mead and Rockwell Elementary Schools.

Again, the projects needed for immediate and short-term growth are included in the April 22 measure. The re-build and expansion of Juanita High School and the new STEM –focused high school on the Juanita campus together will accommodate an additional 900 students in permanent capacity and will reduce or eliminate reliance on portable classrooms at Juanita.

In terms of the decision to remodel versus rebuild, for each project, the district conducts a preliminary evaluation of each site to determine whether it is more prudent to remodel or rebuild. The preliminary evaluation includes assessments of the following:

o   The physical condition of the facility:  its major systems, subsystems, and components such as architectural, structural, mechanical, and electrical elements.

o   The educational adequacy of the facility:  the capability of the school building to support the educational program. The assessment includes health and safety issues, spatial relationships, circulation patterns, environmental issues, technology capability, and issues of accessibility.

In addition, the district follows the guidance outlined in School Facilities Manual, published by the Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) - revised April 2011. The School Facilities Manual outlines the factors to be considered in the facility review process, when making the determination to either remodel or rebuild:

Facility Factors to be Considered:

1.       Is the facility capacity adequate to support the expected school population?

2.       Are previous facility policies, standards, and expectations still acceptable?

3.       Does the facility support current busing, parking, or barrier-free design requirements?

4.       Does the facility address the issues of security, student safety, and supervision?

5.       Is the facility location convenient for the users?

6.       Is the facility attractive and comfortable?

7.       Are classroom types and sizes adequate?

8.       Are support spaces adequate in size and number?

9.       Do classrooms contain the required or desired utilities and equipment?

10.   Is the classroom environment (lighting levels, acoustics, heating, ventilating, and air conditioning) suitable?

Educational and design professionals review the above facility factors and identify potential deficiencies to determine the necessary changes and building upgrades to align the building’s capability with the current or future educational program. A cost/benefit analysis is conducted to determine whether to remodel or rebuild/replace the school facility.

The district remains committed to providing students safe, innovative, and quality learning environments and to being highly accountable, fiscally responsible, and excellent stewards of public funds.

Jackie Pendergrass
LWSD Board of Directors