Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Update to Letter to Lake Washington School District Board

In response to my letter of March 10th, 2014 regarding why I voted "NO" on the February 2014 Bond measure for Lake Washington School District, I received an email from Jackie Pendergrass, President of the LWSD Board of Directors.

Email dated March 25, 2014:

Dear Ms. Norman,

Thank you for your letter regarding the recent February 2014 Bond measure. We appreciate hearing your perspectives, especially as a long-term resident of Redmond. I apologize for the delay in my response but I wanted to be sure I had my facts correct before responding.

As you know, 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.

The needs of the district have not changed since the February 2014 bond. Our enrollment continues to grow and we need additional classroom space to avoid overcrowding. Our October 2012 enrollment was 25,395. Our October 2013 enrollment was 26,220. That is a one year increase of 825 students. 4,000 more students expected by 2021-22 school year, and we need to plan for classroom space to accommodate all day kindergarten when fully funded by the state in 2018. The April 2014 bond measure will allow the district to move forward with the most critical projects needed to meet the urgent needs to accommodate growth and avoid overcrowding in the next four years.

In 1997, the district began a program to modernize aging schools, and we are now halfway through this four-phase approach to modernization. While the April 22 measure focuses on the projects we need for growth, we also plan to continue to plan to address our aging schools. We plan to engage in community dialogue with respect to our approach to modernization.

I wanted to provide you with some additional information with respect to the examples you cite in your letter:

·         The portables are being added at Mann Elementary so Mann can accommodate overflow students from Rockwell and Einstein Elementary Schools. Those schools are being affected by all the new development along 116th street. In 2010, the district ran a bond measure that did not pass. Had that bond measure passed, today we would have two additional elementary schools in the district to accommodate our students. Since the bond did not pass, we have overcrowding occurring in the Redmond area. The February bond 2014 included three elementary schools – the two that were part of the 2010 bond that did not pass, and another that is needed in Kirkland. The April measure will include all three elementary schools.

·         Redmond Middle School is being affected by the same new development in Redmond. In planning for school sites, we include space for four portables to provide flexibility for future situations. It would not make sound fiscal sense to do spend the money to build a new school that would only have four classrooms occupied. However, we do expect more middle school students coming to Redmond Middle and Evergreen Middle, so a new middle school is on the ballot. Additional middle school space was also on the 2010 bond measure that did not pass.

·         With regard to Redmond High School, the district in the past has tried to honor all variance requests for high school students who wanted to attend a different school than their neighborhood school.  However, we no longer have room at Redmond High School, and as a result, we are now limiting the number of variance requests approved for students who live outside its attendance area. This change will enable Redmond High to accommodate the students living within its attendance area.

·         Lake Washington High School was funded through the 2006 bond measure. The planning for the new facility began immediately following the passage of the 2006 bond, and construction began in the summer of 2008. All of this planning and construction occurred prior any discussion of the district shift to four-year high schools. The school was built in 2011, and the district shifted to four year high schools in 2012.  In other words, LWHS was planned and built as a three grades versus four. Had we not shifted to four year high schools, we would now need seven new elementary schools instead of three. Therefore, the change to four-year high schools saved the district from having to build between three and four new elementary schools. The design of LWHS included plans for a later addition, which we now need.

Again, thank you for your input and I hope this information is helpful to you.

Jackie Pendergrass
LWSD Board of Directors

I recommend that we all send letters to the board with your suggestions and comments about the upcoming bond measure vote.  Do you agree with their position?  Disagree?

Lake Washington School District
School Board
PO Box 97039
Redmond, WA  98073-9739

Email:  board@lwsd.org

Additional information regarding portables and classroom building is available here  and here.

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