Wednesday, June 15, 2016
By Marianne Deal Stephens
On Monday, June 6, Shoreline School District announced the latest facility recommendations, which are informational until the School Board votes on them on June 20, 2016.
|Source: Shoreline School District|
These recommendations were developed by a Facilities Committee that consisted of administrators, teachers, parents, and specialists. Over several weeks this spring, the group examined enrollment trends, data on the condition of all school buildings, instructional needs, and school financing. Recent growth in Shoreline has nearly filled elementary schools to capacity, and, with growth expected to continue, the District must accommodate a larger student population. When taking into account a medium enrollment growth trajectory, the Shoreline School District estimates that it would be 11 classrooms short in 2016-2017 and 30 classrooms short in 2017-2018 if it were to try to implement the State’s K-3 class size reductions.
At the District Study Session on June 6, several members of the Facilities Committee presented background information and the recommendations themselves. Lake Forest Park Parent Silje Sodal prefaced the four recommendations by first describing the group’s goals.
|Source: Shoreline School District|
Recommendation 1: Rebuild Einstein and Kellogg Middle Schools
The need for rebuilding Einstein and Kellogg Middle Schools comes out of both the condition of the buildings and the proposed shift to a 6-8 middle school model (see previous article). Both schools were rated “fair” in the recent facilities evaluation. Ms. Sodal described that both schools have “significant challenges” with single pane windows and failing roofs. Kellogg is rated lower: nearly every ceiling has stains from leaks, and water backs up through the asphalt due to drainage deficiencies.
School Board Director Dick Nicholson asked the principals on the committee about the challenge of converting the grade models. Lake Forest Park Principal Aimee Miner responded in her additional role “as the parent of a sixth grader.” She explained that her son has been at the same school for seven years, and does not get science every day. She believes that the kids are ready: “they are bigger, they are adolescents, and they have served their school.” The District can “be thoughtful about what 6th grade would look like” since it does not have to look like 7th and 8th grade.
Principal Ann Torres viewed the question from a secondary level; she served as an Assistant Principal at Shorewood before moving to Parkwood. Now, 6th grade students are missing the opportunities to take music [as a regular daily class], language, and science. She “very much support[s] a 6/7/8 model” and hopes families will become aware of the benefits. Principal Miner reminded the group that Core 24 is coming (see previous article) and that middle school students will have the opportunity to take some credit bearing classes that will count toward the graduation requirement.
Ms. Sodal closed the middle school portion of the discussion by saying that “doing the building at the same time as the grade shift gives us an opportunity to design the facility.” The District can take “all of the good ideas to create the best facility and make it a positive experience for our 6th graders.”
Recommendation 2: Build an Early Learning Center
The existing Shoreline Children’s Center is rated “poor;” only Cedarbrook, which is “unsatisfactory” and slated for demolition, is lower in the condition ratings of District support facilities. Ms. Sodal related that the committee was surprised to learn how “well-loved” the building has become. The recommendation for an Early Learning Center followed from this poor condition and from the instructional goal to co-locate the three major district-run preschool programs.
Lake Forest Park Principal Aimee Miner explained that the district-run preschool co-location and presumed expansion would allow the District to accommodate more of the demand for district-runpreschool, particularly for underserved populations. The consolidation would help the staff by allowing for collaboration and better professional development, and a facility completely “geared toward little people” would support specialized early childhood education.
Recommendation 3: Rebuild Parkwood Elementary
Parkwood Elementary does not have the lowest condition rating of the elementary and secondary buildings; Syre Elementary does. However, Syre’s “fair” rating is primarily due to problems with the HVAC system and the roof, and projects to replace those elements are either currently underway or already on the building improvement schedule. After those projects are completed, Syre is expected to be rated “good,” according to Facilities Modernization Coordinator Dan Stevens.
Parkwood drew the committee’s attention not only because of the low rating, but because of the nature of the problems. Water intrusion leads to electrical problems, which means power outages disrupt school operations. The school has not been updated, and when it was built, (ca. 1960), the State was funding ’20-year’ buildings. The State now funds ’50-year’ buildings. As Deputy Superintendent Marla Miller explained, “modernization” when the external envelope and slab are not sound would end up costing more than a rebuild.
Neither Deputy Superintendent Marla Miller nor Parkwood Principal Ann Torres, a member of the Facilities Committee, expected Parkwood to be in the recommendations, but the group felt strongly that the school needed attention. Rebuilding Parkwood would also allow the District to add more classrooms to a small school, helping to ease the classroom shortage and thereby having broader benefits.
Recommendation 4: February 2017 Bond Proposal to Voters
Paying for the new buildings would require issuing new bonds. Director of Finance and Business Operations Mark Spangenberg led the Facilities Committee in a study of school financing and the District’s current bond situation. The District was able to pay off some bonds early this 2015-2016 school year, and is monitoring remaining payments on still-outstanding bonds from previous authorizations. The District has available debt capacity and would remain within statutory limits should it pass a new bond issue.
Washington State provides matching funds, which amount to approximately 15% of the total that the local voters agree to finance.
Since the plans are only in early stages, there are neither firm total amounts nor firm particular taxpayer impacts available. However, the District anticipates that the share borne by the typical Shoreline/ Lake Forest Park property taxpayer would remain stable. Both School Board Director Mike Jacobs and School Board Vice President Debi Ehrlichman expressed a desire to keep tax levels about the same and to not overburden the community.
If the School Board approves the Facilities Committee recommendations on June 20, the District will work on a proposal over the summer detailing plans for each of the building projects. Deputy Superintendent Miller said, should the Board give the District a go-ahead, “we would come back in the fall with particular amounts” and form design teams to “set vision and direction” for the four buildings. The District has State matching funds (designated for building planning) that can be used now for the early visioning process.
Though no specific timelines were offered, Deputy Superintendent Miller suggested that the four building projects would be staggered rather than simultaneous. The District will come up with a preferred order and timeline should the Board provide approval on June 20 at the 7:00 p.m. Regular School Board Meeting at Shoreline Center.
Shoreline School Board Members seemed to have positive reactions to the proposals in the informal discussion following the Facilities Committee presentation at the June 6 Study Session. Board Vice President Debi Ehrlichman commented that “we are stewards of our public buildings” and “it is normal to have to rebuild and take care of” our facilities. She mentioned that they “did not expect Parkwood, but there is no reason we should not start.” Director Mike Jacobs added that “we shouldn’t wait until it is falling down.”
Members of the Committee
Superintendent Rebecca Miner thanked the members of the Facilities Committee for their “many hours” and “Herculean effort” spent studying material and prioritizing the meetings this spring. Deputy Superintendent Miller valued the various lenses the committee brought to the work and their overlapping roles in the community, as staff, parents, and residents.