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Lake Washington School District needs independent review | Letter
The following letter was sent to the Redmond City Council, Kirkland City Council and Lake Washington School District Superintendent Traci Pierce regarding the upcoming 2014 bond issue to replace several more of our schools:
You recently met with our superintendent of schools, Dr. Pierce. She promised to get back to you on some unanswered questions about state funding assistance to defray construction costs, and replacing portables with permanent housing for kids and teachers. I assume that she will explain that the bond resolution stipulates that no state support is expected and that there is no mention of new construction to replace portables.
She may or may not explain why no state support is expected. The state would normally pay for about 25 percent of the construction cost to house new students or modernize existing buildings. However, based on the size of our schools, the state assumes we can house more students than the district needs. Therefore, while we still qualify for state assistance in modernization, we don’t qualify for that assistance for new construction.
This problem has been exacerbated by the district policy of replacing schools, rather than modernizing them. These new buildings are built larger than allowed by state standards. For example, Lake Washington High School was recently rebuilt more than 19,000-square-feet larger than state standards. That’s enough area to house almost 150 high school students. The state assumes that it now houses those students. Modernization would not have affected the original lower housing capacity.
We spent around $65 million more local money to rebuild Lake Washington High School than would have been required to modernize it to the highest level of state standards. That’s enough money to build six new elementary schools or three junior high schools to those standards. And likewise, in varying degrees for all the other schools rebuilt instead of being modernized.
We’ve spent more than $600 million the last 14 years to tear down and replace over half of our substantially sound school buildings instead of modernizing them. Almost half our schools are still not modernized. They could all be modernized at this time with 25 percent of the costs borne by the state. We’re being asked for another $755 million, a major portion of which is earmarked to replace just six schools with 100 percent local money, not because they need it, but because it’s their turn. The kids and teachers in the rest of the schools will wait years more for a new school instead of having modernized facilities ASAP.
I believe that it’s time that the district conducted an outside independent expert comprehensive value engineering review of their facilities plan for modernization.
It now assumes replacement of all of our schools on a 30-40 year cycle instead of keeping them all modernized on an as-needed basis. Then present the voters with a proposal to keep all our kids and teachers in modernized buildings all the time, handle growth and provide more effective stewardship of our limited physical and monetary resources.
Paul P. Hall, Kirkland