Opinion

Vote YES for school bond | Island Forum

The school facilities bond is a wise and strategic approach to solving our overcrowding problem, providing an educational environment in which our students can excel, and establishing a comprehensive roadmap for the future.

The bond will give us state-of-the-art science facilities K-12, allowing us to offer programs at all grade levels that neighboring districts have and we don’t, like robotics and material science in high school. It will provide flexible spaces that encourage personalized and project-based learning. The buildings will be designed to create small, intimate learning communities, and will have dedicated spaces for art, science, music, PE and lunch.

Rebuilding rather than remodeling our three elementary schools and IMS is cost-effective and consistent with what our neighbors in Bellevue, Lake Washington and Issaquah are doing with their 1950s-1960s cinder block school houses. Remodels cost almost as much, and in many cases more, than rebuilding schools, and require many compromises. It’s hard to tear down buildings that our community gave so much for in the ’50s, ’60s and ’90s, but we have to address our capacity crisis now, and another remodel won’t save money, give us the spaces we want, or provide a 50-year solution.

Some ask why we don’t just build one new elementary school on the North Mercer site. That, too, is too expensive, requiring an additional $450,000 annually of administrative overhead, money that would otherwise go toward teachers. Our principals prefer three larger elementary schools. With three schools, there are four to five classes at each grade level — the perfect size for a small learning community and for teachers to collaborate. Finally, the high school will require rebuilding in 20 to 25 years, and the School Board wisely decided to leave the west side of the North Mercer mega-block available for siting the new school.

The bond funds a master plan for the North Mercer property that will guide placement of facilities between now and then, and it pays for modernization of the pool and stadium to extend their lives by 10-15 years. The acquisition of one of the last large parcels on the Island is also forward looking, providing acreage on the South end for a potential future trade for North end property in case we ever need a sixth school.

The financial elements of the bond are meticulously planned. Construction costs were estimated by the top school construction estimating company in the area, using the same approach that the district’s CFO used when he built 20 schools on time and on budget in his previous district. The bonds will be sold over five to eight years with one school built per year, an approach that allows us to keep our tax rate stable after an initial increase of $700 per year for a $1,000,000 home.

We are grateful for the wise investments taxpayers have made to schools over the past 50 years. Now it’s our turn. Please support our students’ education by voting YES on the school facilities bond.

More information is available at www.mischoolsyes.org.

Carrie George and Bill Hochberg

Co-Chairs, Committee for Mercer Island Public Schools

 

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