- About Us
Clarifying the Lake Washington School District's bond resolution | Letter
You recently read a letter from Paul P. Hall regarding the Lake Washington School District’s upcoming bond measure.
I first want to express my sincere appreciation to Mr. Hall for his support of the district’s upcoming educational programs and operations and capital projects levies. I also appreciate the opportunity to respond to his concerns with respect to the bond measure.
Mr. Hall’s letter indicates that the district’s bond resolution stipulates that no state support is expected. This is an accurate statement. As Mr. Hall indicates, the district does not currently qualify for state construction funding assistance to serve new or “unhoused” students.
The district has qualified in the past for state funding for modernization/replacement of schools. The district will continue to apply for these funds; however, these funds will only be available should they be allocated in future legislative sessions.
To provide some additional background regarding why the district does not qualify for state construction funding assistance to accommodate “unhoused” students, it is important to understand the underlying state methodology for school construction funding.
Mr. Hall refers to “state standards” that should be used to guide the district’s school construction program. To clarify, the state does not have standards for the overall size of a school districts are expected to build. However, the state does specify a square footage allowance that is used in the state construction funding formula.
The square footage allowances are as follows: 90 square feet per elementary student, 117 square feet per middle school student and 130 square feet per high school student.
The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction has been actively working to get these allowances changed in recognition that they are inadequate for today’s educational programming. This year, for example, the office proposed that the square footage allowances be changed to: 125 square feet per elementary student, 155 square feet per middle school student and 165 square feet per high school student.
The state is still providing funding under the current funding formula, as a change in the funding formula and current square footage allowances was not approved by the state legislature this year. Staff at the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction has indicated they will continue to seek improvements to the funding formula.
They also indicate that while the current state square footage allowances will continue to be used in the funding formula factor, they are not the established standard to which districts should build, as individual school districts determine these locally, based on program needs.
By way of illustration to highlight the inadequacy of the state’s current square footage allowance, according to the state inventory, Franklin Elementary has 67,494 square feet and 20 classrooms.
Based on the current state square footage allowance, that elementary school should be able to house 749 students (one student per 90 square feet). If Franklin Elementary were to house 749 students in their 20 classrooms, the average class size would be 37. Clearly an average class size of 37 is unacceptable.
The current average elementary class size in the district is 23. Based on our average elementary class size of 23, we would require 32 classrooms in this school in order to accommodate 749 students and the district would have had to significantly alter the current design of schools.
Our current design provides for small group and shared instructional spaces to accommodate flexible grouping and allows for multi-class presentation opportunities. It also provides for an art/science room. Current designs include interior hallways rather than “California campus” style schools with outdoor breezeways built in the past. The current school designs are preferred due to weather and student safety and security.
I also want to address Mr. Hall’s concerns with respect to Lake Washington High School, as he states that Lake Washington High School was “rebuilt over 19,000 square feet larger than state standards.”
Lake Washington High School was built for a capacity of 1,500 students at 214,000 square feet. Using the state’s current square footage allowance of 130 square feet per high school student, a 1,500 student high school would need 195,000 square feet.
Had we built Lake Washington High School to the current state square footage allowance, the school would be 19,000 square foot smaller. However, Mr. Hall is incorrect that building the school 19,000 square feet smaller would have saved the district $65 million.
Given that the cost per square foot to construct Lake Washington High School was $355.94 per square foot, reducing the total square footage by 19,000 would have saved the district $6.8 million. Elementary schools cost more than $30 million to construct and middle schools cost over $70 million to construct.
The savings of $6.8 million by reducing the size of Lake Washington High School by 19,000 square feet would not be adequate to build 6 new elementary schools or three junior high schools.
For each modernization project, the district conducts a “new in lieu” study. This process looks at the cost to remodel the existing facility versus building a new school in lieu of upgrading the existing building.
A major factor in the cost differential is the expense associated with building/providing temporary housing students during construction during the remodel of a building, along with the additional costs associated with phasing a project, which reduces efficiency of construction means and methods. For example, an analysis for Kamiakin Middle School showed that $1.25 million would be required to temporarily house students.
These costs would not add value to the project, yet they would be required as no other housing for students exists. Completing a new school in lieu of upgrading/remodeling existing facilities most often eliminates the need to develop temporary housing solutions for students, as students remain in the old school on the site until a new school is completed.
Therefore, a “modernization only” approach would not result in improvement to the educational program as was promised to the voters. In addition, it would not result in the level of equity of school facilities that the current program provides, as each school modernization would be constrained within the original building footprint. In addition to new in lieu, the district conducts value engineering on each project within the overall scope of the bond.
Again, I sincerely appreciate Mr. Hall’s support of the upcoming educational programs and operations and capital projects levies. I appreciate him sharing his view and perspectives with the district and with the cities, and I hope the information outlined in this letter is helpful to you.
Traci Pierce, LWSD superintendent