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Vote for Mercer Island schools moves ahead

The board of directors for the Mercer Island School District charged ahead Thursday night by approving the resolution to put a $196 million general obligation bond proposition before Island voters on April 17.

By a vote of 3-1 the resolution passed; board member Dave Myerson would still prefer to see a fourth elementary school built first to alleviate the immediate overcrowding concern. Board member Pat Braman was not present.

“The issue for me is: the end result is not where I want to be,” Myerson said.

The public is still coming out to express their concern over the proposition, or their support.

Islander Marty Gale opened the public comment section by calling the plan “a solution looking for a cause, and a ‘slush fund.’”

Superintendent Gary Plano reminded Gale and other citizens that even though the community would be authorizing $196 million in bonds, they’d be sold in increments to take on each project as needed.

Likewise, citizen Kevin Scheil said he puts a high priority on education, but said he is concerned about huge gaping holes and no alternatives.

“We had to know this was coming for some time,” Scheil said. “This needs to be very carefully considered. If this isn’t the right solution, it could really set us back.”

Carrie George, co-chair of CMIPS (Committee for Mercer Island Public Schools) took offense to criticism of the 21st Century Facilities Planning Committee, which laid out the blueprint for the plan to rebuild the three elementary schools and Islander Middle School. She said the committee, which included architects, engineers and other professionals, considered 30 to 35 options.

Islander Al Tyrrill asked about students from off of the Island who were enrolled in the district before open enrollment ended. Plano said those students graduating out of the system had been taken into account and more kindergarten-age children are coming in just as fast.

Noting that the entire re-building of all the schools will take eight years, Islander Trevor Hart said, “Putting it into historical perspective, the American Civil War went on for four years, half as long as it will take to resolve a school overcrowding problem on this little Island of ours.”

Former School Board member Leslie Ferrell defended the plan by stating, “This is no slush fund; this has been well thought out — there’s no benefits to this job.”

Dean Mack, executive director of business services for the district, laid out the next steps. Assuming the bond issue passes, he said it will take two years for design and permitting for the first school. He said the district is already advertising for architects to bid. Mack hopes to be able to select an architect in 60 days. In choosing an architect, they will look at those with experience designing schools, Mack said.

Simultaneously, education specialists will be developing education specifications for new schools, to include but not limited to: technology, HVAC and food preparation areas. Plano said 12 teachers from across the district will be selected to participate and to give their input on what they see is needed since they are the ones in the trenches each and every day.

By fall, Mack said, they should have a good idea of what the school design will look like.

Mack said there will be community forums with the architect for input from community members on what they would like to see in a new school.

The actual bond proposition will not spell out details, as they are limited to 75 words by King County Elections.

Meanwhile, the district has received an endorsement for the bond from the King County Realtors, saying they urge all of their members to vote yes.

“We’ve turned over every rock,” said board member Brian Emanuels. “We’re getting much more feedback that we need to move more quickly.”

By the numbers

The Mercer Island School District’s bond on the April ballot would raise $196,275,000. It would be used to:

• Acquire land for a fourth school, not necessarily an elementary school, but what is needed.

• Rebuild Islander Middle School on its present campus.

• Rebuild the three elementary schools on each school’s present campus.

• Modernize six to 12 classrooms at MIHS, mainly for updated science labs.

• Modernize Mary Wayte Pool.

• Create a master plan for the mega-block.

• Upgrade the stadium at MIHS.

 

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