Opinion

PEAK diverts millions from education

PEAK could be an admirable community asset with a teen center, a new Boys & Girls Club, childcare and gyms. What PEAK does not offer is a high school-integrated facility as once envisioned and sold to the community in Spring 2005. For a project that neither offers educational value nor reflects funding priorities, PEAK will soak up $1,000,000 in precious school funds and scarce school district land, while incurring ongoing costs and headaches for the Mercer Island School District. For this reason, PEAK should not be sited on MISD land, but instead nurtured elsewhere by community -- not school -- funds

The vision of PEAK with classrooms and gym spaces dedicated to school use deflated long ago. No classrooms are located at PEAK; high school administrators nixed students traipsing far from the main buildings. The only high school function shifted to PEAK is wrestling, a three-month sport. Moving wrestling makes way for one or at most two, of the six new classrooms and offices planned at the high school.

What PEAK advocates promise is access, still undefined, to their facility. Primarily, high school teams can use the gym after school, albeit scheduled alongside the Boys & Girls Club members and Parks & Rec program users, assuming that the city pre-purchases access for $1,000,000.

Gym access enabling one to two classrooms to be built at the high school and three months of wrestling, paid with $1,000,000 of our school funding, placed on MISD million-dollar land: school money well spent?

PEAK strays from MISD’s constitutional mission and priorities. At a November linkage meeting, parents said retaining top teachers, providing differentiated learning, assisting struggling students and reducing class size ranked tops among their priorities for the district.

PEAK was not mentioned as a MISD Board or parent priority. PEAK is not mentioned in current MISD priorities nor at linkage meetings with other stakeholders. Where is the objective fiduciary oversight for the district and its finances? Why do MISD board members keep insisting that PEAK provides “endless” opportunities while defensively avoiding spending time on PEAK planning because PEAK is not their educational focus?

PEAK is a private club with community value, not an educational priority deserving school funds. Do the citizens of Mercer Island really want to give taxpayer-owned land to a private club?

One million dollars and million-dollar land donation are only the beginning of MISD’s folly. PEAK’s large footprint on what is now open land, plus additional parking required from the first high school remodel will all but eliminate MISD’s last space reserved for a new school to reduce class size. Losing land on this Island is irreparable. Giving it away to a private club is extremely troubling.

Too big for its site, PEAK can produce less than half the parking spaces required for a facility its size, and thus begs the city to compromise code protecting residential neighborhoods. PEAK would pass the parking headache and costs onto MISD, which would be required to manage scheduling and monitor parking for every event of every tenant on the North Mercer campus or face stiff fines.

The MISD Board is committing without your vote at least $1,000,000 and its scarce land to a private club with no educational value. Become informed and tell the School Board to focus on educational priorities. Join me in supporting PEAK in its current East Seattle location, without school funding.

Retired educator Myra Lupton was named the Mercer Island Citizen of the year in 2004.

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