Our Need for New Schools

You don’t need me to tell you that our population has grown tremendously. Even those who don’t have students in our schools have seen vast amounts of construction throughout our neighborhoods. Large lots are continuously being turned into scores of townhouses; multiple older shopping areas are now apartment buildings; even older single-family homes, especially the two- and three-bedroom rambler styles are torn down and replaced with McMansions. Empty nesters sell their homes to bigger families with school-aged children. Enrollment has grown by 31% since 2008; projections for the next ten years say we should see our student population increase by 11%.

There are a variety of stumbling blocks and solutions. Your advocacy can help. Money is part of the issue, but not the only problem. Besides supporting bonds to build new facilities, the process by which those bonds pass stopped our progress for a few years. At this time, bond measures must pass with a 60% majority… not a 50% majority. “Get Out the Vote” drives are crucial along with what I would like to see turned into a grass-roots campaign I call “Adopt A Voter”.

Our multi-cultural district is a pleasure with one drawback. A significant number of our parents are not eligible to vote for our bonds and levies. If we could martial this population and encourage each one to identify and convince an eligible voter of the importance of these measures, we should be able to easily overcome the 60% hurdle.

Securing sufficient land upon which we can build new schools is also difficult. King County has designated “Urban Growth Areas” restricting land available for schools. We continue to advocate for relief from the County and our cities. I don’t understand why large residential developments are permitted without set asides for schools.

We also can tackle the question of how and what we might build in the future. Gaining space by building permanent additions to existing schools can be financed with levies rather than bonds. Recent surveys have shown a preference for adding on rather than rebuilding, but if we want to save space by building up/adding floors a rebuild might be the best solution especially when we can’t find large lots. Of course, there are those who believe we should use these smaller parcels for Choice Schools. I have heard from parents who were not happy with the land we recently purchased in Redmond because at 25.46 acres it isn’t big enough for a high school. Where would you put the football stadium, they asked?

When we lived in New York we were just up the street from one of the most famous high schools in the world, New York’s High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts. My suggestion is to add the technical arts too, giving those who want to pursue building trades a home within the district as well. In partnership with the community, we could create apprenticeships, too. The school would flourish, even without a football stadium.