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School properties need repair

Rotting storage units and an abandoned car sit behind Youth Theatre Northwest in the North Mercer complex of the Mercer Island School District. A study for the planned 2009 facilities bond indicates that repairs to the North Mercer campus are a district priority. - Chad Coleman/Mercer Island Reporter
Rotting storage units and an abandoned car sit behind Youth Theatre Northwest in the North Mercer complex of the Mercer Island School District. A study for the planned 2009 facilities bond indicates that repairs to the North Mercer campus are a district priority.
— image credit: Chad Coleman/Mercer Island Reporter

The Mercer Island School District has a new list of remodeling priorities for 2009. Consultant Tom Bates of BLRB Architects presented the School Board with a visual survey of the repairs needed at all five district schools, along with the North Mercer campus and administration building, as the 2009 facilities project moves slowly ahead.

The 60-plus-page feasibility study, which includes color photographs and diagrams of all areas — from corroded drains to dull paint jobs — needing repair, was distributed to School Board members during their Sept. 25 meeting.

A week later, Bates showed the same presentation to the Bond Advisory Committee on Oct. 7. The committee, which includes two representatives from each Island school, district administrators, the director of maintenance and the district project manager, will determine the extent of renovations based on the study and present their recommendations to Superintendent Gary Plano, who will in turn bring them before the School Board.

“The feasibility study not only asks the question, ‘Are our facilities structurally sound?’ But also, ‘Are they conducive for education in the 21st century?’” Plano said.

The superintendent added that the School Board was surprised by how low some of Bates’ scores were for district buildings. The decades-old North Mercer campus, for example, received a score of 35.8 — highly deserving of repair. Unlike the three elementary schools, Islander Middle School and Mercer Island High School, which were all remodeled in the mid-90s, North Mercer has been hardly touched since its construction in 1961. This building is home to Youth Theatre Northwest, CHILD private school and a couple of preschools. The district administration building was also highlighted as needing wide repairs with a rating of 47.4.

Crest Learning Center, in contrast, was given the highest rating, 68.1, despite a few ventilation problems; and Mercer Island High School, which has been the focus of several remodel projects over the past years, also received relatively satisfactory ratings. Of the five Island schools, Islander Middle School came in with the lowest rating at 51.5. The three elementary schools all averaged scores in the high 60s, and MIHS received a score of 75.

The 2008/2009 facilities planning process, which was approved last spring, is divided into four phases. The district is currently in the final phase of the bond planning process and expects committee discussion and evaluation to last six to eight months.

The last time that the district conducted such a study was 12 years ago, Plano said.

The 2009 project should not be confused with the $9.9 million already received from the 2008 Capital Facilities and Technology Levy, passed by Island voters last spring. The 2009 bond will provide funds needed in addition to the four-year levy project.

The full BLRB report can be viewed on the district’s Web site, www.misd.k12.wa.us, under “School Board agenda for Sept. 25.”

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