MISD facilities planning committee presents findings

Demographic Trends and Projections - Contributed Image
Demographic Trends and Projections
— image credit: Contributed Image

All the schools in the Mercer Island School District have reached or exceeded capacity. With little or no hope of funding from the state of Washington or the federal government, the district is going to have to get creative on how to move forward and accommodate the growing number of students expected in the long-term.

Monday night, members of the School Board and the public listened to a thorough presentation by the 21st Century Facilities Planning Committee, presented by facilitator Kris Kelsay.

The committee consists of 16 community members, three student representatives, City Council member Bruce Bassett, and board liaison Janet Frohnmayer. It has been tasked to come up with a master facilities plan for the board within a 12 to 18-month period.

The committee is made up of engineers, a legal expert, entrepreneurs, a PTA mom and a host of experts in their field.

To date, the committee — which first met in September 2010 — has had six regular meetings, a school construction tour and three enrollment sub-committee meetings. The group plans to meet twice a month from now on, with the goal of making a recommendation by September of this year.

All three elementary schools are very limited to remodeling or expansion in a one-story footprint and absolutely cannot be built up to two stories due to the existing structural system. All three could be rebuilt with expansion on the existing sites or even on the current footprint, the committee concluded.

Two-story expansion is out of the question for Mercer Island High School, Islander Middle School and the North Mercer campus as well, due to existing structural issues. MIHS and IMS could be remodeled with expansion or rebuilt with expansion on their existing sites, but the North Mercer campus will not hold up for a remodel — it would have to be rebuilt due to the condition of the building.

The committee agrees that the district needs to be flexible. Current enrollment in all schools this year is 4,178; the enrollment sub-committee predicts that number to be 4,486 students for learning spaces in 2015, with facilities needed to accommodate 4,935 kids in areas such as cafeterias, gyms, playgrounds and auditoriums.

The board didn’t have specific answers to some of the questions posed by the committee, but board member Pat Braman suggested the PEAK facility as a potential location for preschool. While the issue of regrouping is interesting, board member Dave Myerson said it might not fit some students well, while Kelsay said, “If it’s not broke, why fix it?”

As far as acquiring new property, board president Lisa Eggers said the district can’t afford to buy new property, but they would certainly be open to an equitable swap.

There is a good possibility voters will be looking at a bond proposal as soon as November 2012, with the amount unknown at this time.

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