Mercer Island School Board ready to draft next bond

The Mercer Island School District is considering putting together a draft of a school bond as part of the next step for MISD. A draft bond would allow the district and community to continue discussing the future of the schools on the Island, while moving forward on a timeline.

During the Feb. 14 meeting, the board of directors discussed the idea, as laid out by Superintendent Gary Plano.

The district would produce a draft of what a future bond for new schools would look like and make it available, likely sometime in March. This would allow Islanders to continue discussing the bond, while the architectural firms work on the educational specifications for a middle and elementary school.

“There are multiple streams of work to be done,” said Janet Frohnmayer, the board president.

In the outline provided in the MISD board packet at the Feb. 14 regular meeting, the key elements of the draft bond would be: a new K-5 elementary school on the land near the high school for roughly $30.4 million, expanding the existing Islander Middle School campus with 14 classrooms, and a larger student commons and new gym at $33.2 million. Finally, the draft would include an expansion of the high school, including eight to 10 classrooms with four science labs in a two-story addition at $6.7 million. The rough total cost would be $70.3 million.

The administration estimated that between March and July, once the bond draft is released, there would be more community outreach and analysis, public forums and online feedback, as well as community presentations, all while the ed spec process finishes. Then in August the board could make a decision about when to schedule a bond, based on the feedback and information gathered in the prior months. The proposal estimated for a possible February 2014 public vote on the bond.

Board member Brian Emanuels was concerned about making a decision too soon.

“I don’t think August is realistic,”he said. “But I think in September we can schedule some forums. There has been a lot of disagreement about how we package this, and I think we might need to have another survey. An October timeframe might be more realistic and still gives us time to put together a bond.”

In order to put something on a February 2014 ballot, the board will have to file the resolution by Dec. 27, 2013. An April 2014 vote would push the filing date to March 2014.

“This gives us time, and I think we really need to talk to the city about 40th and the impact that will have. That is going to be a factor,” said board member Pat Braman.

The board reconfirmed on Tuesday that the architects chosen in April 2012 would be the firms working on the ed specs for a new elementary and middle school. Mahlum Architects will be designing the new elementary school while Integrus Architects will be working on the new middle school design. Mahlum is also the firm doing the plans for the high school addition.

“The board tabled it because of the bond outcome,” said Dean Mack, the executive director of business services and human resources for the district. “This will take us from the ed specs through the design process. We have found enough money in the capital projects budget to go forward with this.”

Mack noted the ed specs are not the full design process, which would cost upwards of $3 million.

The board also heard a report on the school safety audit, recently performed by the Mercer Island Police Department and Maintenance and Operations Director Tony Kuhn. An external audit, done by an outside consultant, will be presented to the board at one of the upcoming board meetings.

The internal audit noted ways to increase safety and security at the MISD campuses, in areas such as security cameras, fencing, a buzz entry system and more signs asking visitors to go to the main office.

Kuhn said the external audit will also help the district set a baseline that will allow a standard to be set moving forward.

Kuhn also said the goal is not to close off the campus during non-school hours, times when many Island residents use the playgrounds or basketball courts, but to focus on the school hours.

“The goal is not to close off the campus gates,” he said. “Maybe those are locked during the school day, but we’re not sure yet how that looks. We’re just trying to funnel people to the right places during school hours.”

The board’s next meeting will take place on Feb. 28 at 7 p.m. in the City Council Chambers.

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