Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Cost vs. Value

This post was previously posted at the Redmond Neighborhood Blog on July 30, 2013, which I linked on my Facebook page.

For those of you not on Facebook, I'm posting it again here on my personal blog.

Cost vs. Value

As you drive by Redmond Middle School and Redmond High School this summer; make sure you count the number of portable buildings on site at each school.  RMS will be adding one more portable; and RHS will have an additional two; bringing the total to 7 between the two schools.

I asked Kathryn Reith, Communications Director at Lake Washington School district for the cost of the new addition at Redmond High School (the brick building that faces 104th) and the cost for each of the portable units including all related expenses (permits, furniture, painting, etc.).   

Her answer:

“With regard to classroom cost, here’s the answer:
·  Per permanent classroom cost (this is for the addition) = $728,484
·  Per portable classroom cost = $190,000 (*each portable is actually a double-classroom, so this figure per portable is $380,000)”

There is an additional portable that will be added to Redmond Middle School – bringing the total to three on-site.  This portable will be used for classrooms as the school needs “additional space”. 
By my count this means three portables at RMS and four portables at RHS:

7 portables at $380,000 cost per (double) portable = $2,660,000 total cost (14 classrooms)

Let’s focus solely on the additional portables at Redmond High School which would be just 4 portables at $380,000 each (Total $1,520,000).  This adds an additional 8 classrooms to the RHS campus in portable buildings.

Redmond High School was originally built in 1964; demolished and rebuilt during the LWSD modernization process (Phase 2) in 2003.   The modernization updated the 1964 school from student capacity of 1,375 to the 2003 capacity of between 1431 and 1500 (specialized classes and ELL have different class and population capacities).  The budget for the 2003 construction was $50,575,931. 

Page 11 of History of LWSD states:

 • 1965 – Redmond – A new Redmond High School was opened on Education Hill and Redmond students returned to this high school. With 134,294 square feet of floor space in three buildings the cost was $2.2 million. Walter Seabloom was the first principal in the new school. Remodeling was done in 1984 and 1985.”

The construction completed in 2012 added 30,000 sf of space and included an auxiliary gym addition and a classroom addition. According to Kathryn Reith’s figures above, the cost for the classroom addition was $728,484 of the $1,400,000 construction budget cost listed.  14 classrooms are housed in the brick addition; all classrooms were used in one way or another throughout the school year. 

Each portable building houses two classrooms – for a total of 8 classrooms on the RHS campus.  A class size is based on a 32 student capacity; although some classes may have more or less than that number.  Capacity is no different for a portable vs. standard classroom.  8 classrooms with an average of 32 students per classroom is a total of 256 seats available.

14 classrooms for $728,484 (cost of the building) vs. 8 classrooms for $1,520,000 (four portables)
Let’s assume the district decided to double the size of the 2011 addition; using the cost of the 14 classroom structure it would have cost roughly $1,456,968.  WELL BELOW the cost of installing four “double” portable buildings for one school and with six more classrooms than are currently available. 

Could the district have built the 2003 RHS campus with capacity for the future?  Certainly!  LWSD states in their modernization information that schools being built are theoretically intended for use for 40 years.  Modernization projects began in 1998 and will continue until 2033 (

Would this completely avoid the need for portables?  In the long term probably not; however portables have a shorter life-span than a brick-and-mortar building and would need to be replaced and repaired more frequently.
Buildings should be planned, designed and built for long-term use and for many generations of students.

There is a projected increase of roughly 4,000 students coming into the district in the next 10 years (  Redmond Mayor John Marchione expects Redmond to grow from a city of 56,000 to 78,000 (  Although many of the new housing developments are apartments and other multi-family buildings intended for the younger, single or no-kids couples; there are far too many places to live in Redmond when matched against the number of schools and classrooms available for incoming children. 

LWSD is guilty of not adequately projecting the school-age population increase in a growing and thriving community for the future.  They have consistently discounted growth trends in the last 10 years with Redmond Junior High (now Redmond Middle School), Horace Mann Elementary and Redmond (Senior) High School; not to mention Rosa Parks Elementary in the Redmond Ridge neighborhood.  Of course, they can’t be certain to the letter of the number of students coming into a district, but with all the media attention the district receives about awards of distinction and test scores; calculations should be over-planned instead of conservatively placed in the lower estimates.  In addition, the cities and the District should work together to develop communication about future residential projects and how many projected school-age children those developments could bring.

In 2014, LWSD will once again ask for more money to finance modernization and upgrades to existing schools.  This money will be used towards “Phase 3” schools including Juanita High School and Rockwell Elementary.  If the “Phase 2” modernizations have required portables and additions within 10 years of construction; how will the district address the increase of students in the next 20 to 30 years?

Is it really more expensive to build larger structures than are currently needed for new schools and have 3 or 4 (or even a few more) classrooms sit empty for the next 10 years?  Is it of value to the taxpayer to have to band-aid enrollment issues every year because of poor planning by the district?  Does the District truly expect the voters to approve yet another bond issue so they can waste more time and more money on buildings that are crowded before they’ve even been completed? 

I urge you to carefully consider your vote in the 2014 levy process. 

1 comment:

Bob Yoder said...

This post was very well received on my blog and relatively widely read. Thank you for writing it and sending it on.. The District obviously places too much value on portables for their facilities! Right on!