Lake Washington School District (LWSD) was the fastest-growing district in King County over the 2012-13 and 2013-14 school years.
This fall, the district matched its projected growth. There were 716 more students in the district in September than at the same time last year. Current enrollment now stands at 26,615.
“To make sure we have room for our rapidly growing student numbers, we need to have two things in place,” said LWSD Superintendent Dr. Traci Pierce. “First, we need to make sure we have enough classrooms overall to house the expected numbers. Then we can determine how to distribute the student population through a boundary adjustment process.”
To ensure enough classrooms overall, district staff analyzed five options to address short-term capacity needs, including:
1. Changing the Capital Facility Plan standard of service temporarily
2. Making interior building modifications
3. Adding portable classrooms, either traditional or green (which are more durable, have lower energy consumption and have more windows)
4. Constructing permanent additions
5. Leasing commercial space
The solutions had to be affordable within the limited available funds for additional classrooms since two proposed bond measures did not pass in 2014. These available funds come from a mixture of past bonds that have been sold but unallocated; state construction assistance funds received and expected and school impact fees. These sources total about $21.5 million to address district capacity needs through 2017-18.
The projected need through 2017-18 is 71 additional classrooms to house students. The district’s enrollment is expected to be 28,515 by 2017-18.
After analyzing the needs and costs, district staff developed a plan that included a combination of the first four options. Leasing commercial space was found to be too costly after the expense of interior space renovations for school use were factored in.
1. The Capital Facility Plan standard of having separate art/science rooms and computer rooms in modernized elementary schools is temporarily suspended as needed. Those rooms are already being used as regular classrooms in some schools. This adds 18 classrooms districtwide at no monetary cost.
2. Building modifications at Juanita High School and Evergreen Middle School to provide teacher planning spaces. When middle and high school teachers plan in rooms other than their classroom, it frees up their classrooms during their planning period for another class. This increase in classroom utilization will provide the equivalent of 17 classrooms and cost $1 million.
3. Add “green” portables to Audubon Elementary (one), Franklin Elementary (one), Rush Elementary (three), Alcott Elementary (four), Redmond Elementary (four), Redmond Middle School (one), Evergreen Middle School (four) and Lake Washington High School (10). This adds 28 classrooms and will cost $12.7 million.
4. Construct permanent addition to Redmond Elementary School of six classrooms, restrooms and a shared instructional space. This adds six classrooms and will cost $6.3 million.
The district’s board of directors reviewed this plan at its Sept. 8 study session. The plan adds 69 classrooms at a cost of $20 million.
Redistributing enrollment by changing school boundaries
The district announced last spring that a boundary process would take place this fall so that all classroom space in the district could be used to house its growing enrollment. Now that a plan to add classroom space has been determined, the boundary process is the next step to distribute student enrollment accordingly.
The process will begin with a survey to seek input on the criteria that will be used to develop potential new boundaries. Parents will receive an email with a link to the survey; community members who are interested can find a link to the survey on the district website’s home page (www.lwsd.org). The survey will close on Friday.
The results of that survey will go to a staff committee that will use that data. The committee will be led by Associate Superintendent for Student and School Support Services Jon Holmen. Holmen and his committee will also review and analyze enrollment projections, planned housing developments and more in order to develop possible boundary scenarios. This group will get feedback on those scenarios from parent representatives (PTSA officers) and others.
In early December, the committee will hold four open house feedback sessions in schools around the district to enable parents to weigh in on the scenarios. An online feedback alternative will be available for those who cannot attend these sessions. The committee will then revise the scenarios using that feedback and develop a recommendation to present to the superintendent, who will determine the final recommendation to take to the school board in January for approval.
The goal is to complete the process before kindergarten registration begins in February, so that families know at which school to register their students.
The boundary process committee will post information and updates throughout the process on a new Boundary Process page in the News section of the district website. A link on that page will enable interested parents and community members to sign up to receive notices when new information has been posted.
This short-term plan will enable the district to accommodate student enrollment growth through the 2017-18 school year. The district is also engaging in a long-term facilities planning process to determine how it will accommodate enrollment growth and management of facility needs for 2018-19 and beyond. Two bond measures in 2014 that would have added schools and modernized school buildings were favored by a majority of voters but did not gain the 60 percent approval needed to pass.
“We need to spend the time to engage our community in a larger process to better understand the larger community’s desires and priorities with respect to school facilities,” said Pierce.
A task force will be convened this fall to conduct a comprehensive community-engagement process, with the goal to make recommendations to the superintendent and school board regarding long-term facility plans sometime next spring or early summer. Should those recommendations include future bond measures, the earliest a measure would be on the ballot would be February 2016. A separate section on the district website will be launched to enable community members to track the task force’s work and provide input.