Letters to the Editor

Letters | Six Islanders voice support for school bonds

To the Editor,

Frustrated. Please Vote “Yes” To Build New Schools.

We need to build new schools. How do I know? I volunteer at Lakeridge Elementary almost every day. The building is simply too small. The common areas are overcrowded and overbooked, and adding more portables won’t solve the issue. Here are some examples I witness while volunteering:

No gym in the gymnasium. There is only one large common area: the gymnasium/cafeteria/theater. Because of the increased number of kids and limited space, Lakeridge has three separate lunch periods in the gymnasium. The first lunch period starts at 11:10 a.m. and last lunch period ends at 1:30 p.m. This leaves very little time for other uses.  Sometimes P.E. is forced to occur outside in the cold and rain.

Theatre practice in the halls. Every year there are school productions and award ceremonies. Did you know kids are practicing for these events in the halls? Pianos are banging and kids are singing immediately outside classrooms, it is extremely noisy and distracting.

Library in the classroom. There are times when, because of lack of space, the library has to be used as a meeting space. On these days, the librarian loads a cart of books and takes it to classrooms. With limited book options, kids often pick a book they don’t like (and presumably won’t read).

Portables still congest common areas. Portables don’t have halls.  Because of lack of space, there is an incredible amount of work done in the halls of the main building (specialist help, book-in-a-bag, storage, display, volunteer prep, event practice). We need common areas and more break out space, not just classroom space.

Bathrooms. Portables don’t always have bathrooms and the main building bathrooms can’t always accommodate the number of kids. Let’s just say embarrassing things happen while kids are waiting, that shouldn’t.

Our principal must spend too much time on logistics. Mr. Rundle works tirelessly for our school. He is at Lakeridge, it appears to me, more than 12 hours per day. It is frustrating to see him spend valuable time searching for space (e.g. how to provide an advanced math class without a classroom, how to create a reading room, etc.). Time spent on logistics is time not spent on staff development and improving our children’s education.

Please vote “yes.” Our kids and school staff need your help.

Kristin Hart

 

To the Editor,

I am heartened to read in recent Reporter issues that many who currently oppose the MISD April bond proposal do recognize the critical problem of overcrowding in our elementary and middle schools.

With three children in the K-8 system, I echo the concerns of those who have already publicly expressed their frustration that teaching has to happen in the hallways. At IMS, not only is learning happening in the halls, students work on academic projects on hallway floors.

While students being packed like sardines is the principal reason to pass this bond, I ask all residents to consider other quality of life benefits that can only come from rebuilding and re-siting new buildings on current properties.

Take traffic for instance, a big topic in recent Letters to the Editor.  As a member of the 21st Century Facilities Planning Committee, we reviewed schematics showing how new layouts on existing properties could draw traffic off city streets.  It's an exciting thought for those frustrated by traffic jams around our schools.

As for the North Mercer campus, I initially believed it was an obvious place to build a new school. But in that year of research we heard from top regional engineers that Gallagher Hill/SE 40th are already at or above their design capacities. With I-90 volumes expected to increase more in coming years, I feel that campus should not be encumbered with an additional school. Plus, heavy traffic and small children do not mix.

I was fortunate several years ago to work with our new mayor Bruce Bassett, the MISD transportation director and other concerned parents on a Healthy Ways to School Committee.  Many of us would love for our kids to get around the island on their own.  But we are not willing to risk our children's safety. We have a great chance right now for cooperation between the city and school district to make permanent accessibility improvements to our school properties. And, by rebuilding deeper into those parcels, particularly Island Park and West Mercer elementary schools, congestion could be reduced.

The Island's biggest challenges can be viewed as big picture opportunities. I urge voters to thoughtfully consider them, and support the April bond.

Hilary Benson

 

To the Editor,

I am voting for the school bond (even though I likely won't have any kids benefit from it) for 3 primary reasons:

1) Overcrowding - The schools are overcrowded - visit a school and you will see kids sitting in the hallways for anything outside of core class. Even some of the core classrooms are in temporary buildings (“Portables”)

2) World class facilities - Like it or not Bellevue, Issaquah, Sammamish etc. are building world class facilities - ours have fallen behind – particularly for the science classes this will provide world class facilities for learning – better facilities will help us continue to attract the best teachers.

3) Property values – I believe the return on investment will be high – i.e. it will increase demand for 98040 zip code (schools) and increase property values.

Also remember that the increased tax amount is federally deductible – effectively reducing the taxpayer bond cost by 28-35% (depending on your tax bracket)

Lowell Ricklefs

 

To the Editor,

I served on the 21st Century Facility Planning Committee (21CFPC) that studied our school infrastructure and capacity situation for over a year. On the basis of that work, I came to the conclusion that we needed to rebuild our schools now. The bond initiative put forward by the school board for $196 million sounds like a large, scary number on the surface butthe plan is fiscally prudent.

Our tax rate is low - 14th out of 15th for surrounding districts and we will still be 12th after construction. It will increase our property tax at a rate of $350 per $500,000 of assessed value each year, a great investment with construction costs at historic lows. New construction makes way more sense than remodeling where we would spend almost as much money yet would not get the facilities needed.

Building new schools is important to maintaining property values. When I moved here in 1999 we made the half-the-house-for-twice-the-price Mercer Island trade-off. Families now have many good choices. Surrounding Eastside communities have better facilities than we do. My friends who are real estate agents tell me that families are no longer buying into the "less-house-for-better-schools” mantra. Only Federal Way, Kent and Tahoma spend less capital per student than Mercer Island. All but six of Bellevue’s 28 schools have been rebuilt since 2001.

My family did not move to Mercer Island because we wanted “good enough” schools, we wanted great schools and that is why I support the bond.

Carol Gullstad

 

To the Editor

When I first heard about the crowded schools, my initial thought was remodeling could solve the problem.  I was not alone.  Each member of the school facility task force I spoke with went in to the committee’s work with the same belief.  After reviewing the data, researching the alternatives and seeking professional opinions, each one was ultimately convinced that rebuilding was the best solution.

As a professional, I spend a lot of time relying upon expert advice – as well as seeking out raw data behind major decisions.  I studied the process the committee used, reviewed the data and was impressed by the level of professionalism, data-driven results, attention to detail and consideration givento taxpayer concerns.

Given all this, I endorse the school bond enthusiastically.  I am thoroughly convinced it is the right thing for our students and our taxpayers.  Please join me in voting YES.

Ken Glass

 

To the Editor,

The 6th Annual Lakeridge Science Fair is coming on March 7th, and we are excited to announce a record high 169 students entering the event.  This amounts to almost a third of the total student population of 579 who will participate.  Science Fair is a great way for our students to learn the true nature of science, how fun it is to answer questions using their own ideas, and it is an opportunity to engage in a 21st-century experiential style of learning.  Unfortunately, we have realized during our preparations for the event that we cannot accommodate a third of the student population in the school's Multipurpose Room (which also acts as our cafeteria/gym/stage).  We were successful in moving the event to a location close by (IMS), but it is a shame to lose the community feel of hosting it in our own school.  In addition, our ultimate goal is actually to have more than half the students participate, making this event unfeasible in the current school facility.  This is only one example of how our schools are exceeding the capacity they were designed to handle, and I join CMIPS in urging all Mercer Island residents to support the School Bond vote in April.  We must give Mercer Island students and their teachers the resources and space they need to succeed in their endeavors.  Do we really want Mercer Island School District to slide to a subpar level?  Compared to cities like Bellevue and Issaquah, which are making major investments in their school infrastructure, we will not be doing justice to our students or our community's reputation for learning excellence if we fail on this issue now.

Ivy Suzuki-Jaecks

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Community Events, April 2014

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