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Three Kirkland school replacements part of special election ballot

Lake Washington School District - Contributed Art
Lake Washington School District
— image credit: Contributed Art

King County special elections are coming up next month and residents living within the Lake Washington School District (LWSD) will be asked to approve two levies and one bond measure.

The three measures will go toward the district’s everyday operations, technology needs and building upgrades as well as toward replacing aging schools and building new schools to accommodate the district’s growing enrollment.

The bond measure would also allow LWSD to continue with its modernization program with funds going toward replacing aging schools throughout the district.

Six schools are scheduled to be replaced, including three in Kirkland: Juanita High School, Kamiakin Middle School and Peter Kirk Elementary School.

The two levies are renewals and require a simple majority of 50 percent, plus one to pass.

Kathryn Reith, communications director for LWSD, said each of the levies are four-year measures and it has been a long time since they have not passed.

“It’s been many, many years,” she said.

The district surveyed the community in March 2013 and LWSD Superintendent Dr. Traci Pierce said 81 percent of residents who have moved to the district in the last 10 years said the quality of local schools influenced their decision where to live.

“We are very proud of the excellent educational experiences we can provide for our students, with the support from our communities,” she said. “We rely on local dollars to fund our schools and we know that quality schools contribute to the overall viability, stability and economic health of our communities.”

Officials at King County Elections said ballots will be mailed out Wednesday and residents should expect to receive them by the end of next week. The vote-by-mail ballots are due Feb. 11.

FILLING THE GAP

The first levy, the Education Programs and Operations (EP&O) Levy, is the second largest portion of the district’s general fund, covering about 22.5 percent. According to an LWSD brochure highlighting the three measures, the EP&O Levy “fills the gap between state basic education funding and the current educational program.” It helps pay for things such as 30 percent of all teaching and 36 percent of all non-teaching staff costs, teacher planning and preparation time, programs such as special education, English Language Learners and Safety Net, safety and security, facility maintenance and extracurricular activities and athletics.

Jackie Pendergrass, LWSD school board president, said the EP&O Levy is critical for the district to “continue to provide the education to our students that our community expects and deserves.”

If passed, the EP&O Levy would cost $263.6 million over the course of four years. For homeowners, this comes to an estimated rate of about $1.85-1.92 per $1,000 of assessed property value.

BUILDING, TECHNOLOGY MAINTENANCE

If passed, the second levy, the Capital Projects Levy, would pay for two types of capital projects: facilities and technology.

“The Capital Projects Levy passage will allow us to continue to keep our buildings in tip-top condition and to keep our technology programs and systems up to date,” said Pendergrass.

Reith said on the facilities side of things, this would mean major projects in buildings such as replacing heating systems and flooring as well as upgrading buildings’ door-locking systems.

When it comes to technology, the Capital Projects Levy would cover items such as replacing the district’s mobile technology and keeping the district’s infrastructure — networks, servers and the like — up to date. Reith said the Capital Projects Levy would also cover a portion of technology-related staff costs such as training programs for new software and the district’s help desk, which goes out into the field for repairs whenever technology issues crop up.

“The schools depend on (the help desk) quite heavily,” she said.

If passed, the Capital Projects Levy would cost $127.2 million over the course of four years. For homeowners, this comes to an estimated rate of about $0.91 per $1,000 of assessed property value.

Pierce added, “The renewal of the EP&O Levy and Capital Projects Levy will enable us to continue to provide high quality educational programs, technology teaching and learning tools and safety and security upgrades.”

RUNNING OUT OF ROOM

The upcoming bond measure requires a 60 percent supermajority to pass, and if passed, it would cost residents $755 million over the course of 20 years.

Enrollment at LWSD is projected to increase by 4,000 in the next eight years and with current buildings at or approaching capacity, the district needs somewhere to put these new students.

The bond measure would address this issue with the addition of three new elementary schools, one new middle school, additions to Eastlake and Lake Washington high schools, a science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) choice high on the west side of the district and an international-focused choice high school on the east side of the district.

Two of the new elementary schools would be built in Redmond — one in the Redmond Ridge East neighborhood and one in North Redmond. Reith said these locations were chosen because the area schools — Rosa Parks Elementary School on Redmond Ridge and Albert Einstein and Norman Rockwell elementary schools in North Redmond — are at capacity.

“We are running out of space at Einstein and Rockwell and there’s no more room for more portables,” Reith said, adding that there are several new housing developments in the works in this area, as well.

The district has already moved a portion of Rosa Parks students to nearby Laura Ingalls Wilder Elementary School in Woodinville as a temporary measure to address the overcrowding, but Reith said Wilder will soon be overcrowded if a new school is not built.

“Right now, we’re getting to the ‘bursting-at-the-seams’ (point),” she said, adding that the two Redmond elementary schools were on a previous bond measure in 2010 that failed.

A temporary solution to overcrowding at Einstein and Rockwell — which have 488 and 661 students, respectively — is to move some students to Horace Mann Elementary School. Reith said this is the only nearby school in the district’s Redmond Learning Community that is not expected to increase in enrollment.

The third elementary school that would be built with the bond funds would be in Kirkland, though Reith said they have not determined where in the city it would be located. She said Kirkland is also growing, though not at the same rate as Redmond.

“The bond passage will allow us to provide the space that our growing student population needs while alleviating overcrowded conditions in some of our schools,” Pendergrass said. “We do not have enough current space to adequately accommodate all the students moving into our schools.”

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