We are parents of Islander Middle School students and write to share with readers the overcrowding situation that already exists at IMS; provide some specifics on how our 6th, 7th and 8th grade students are impacted, and explain why we urge residents to vote Yes on the schools bond and levy.
This school year, IMS is 218 students over design-capacity. There are nine portables on campus. Even the most conservative forecasts by demographer Les Kendrick predict continued growth.
Over the past few years, we have helped lead fundraising efforts for the PTSA at IMS. The parents and community have been generous, helping with the magazine drive, Ski Swap and other fundraising events.
But while the activities mean support for valuable school programs, the physical plant at the school is hindering our kids’ education. There is not a single space at IMS that holds the whole student body at once, so the school holds fewer assemblies - there is simply too much disruption to the school day to have multiple assemblies. With the impactful speakers IMS can bring in, it is unfortunate that not all kids can benefit.
The student center is adjacent to classrooms; the noise of hundreds of kids in a small space is understandably a disruption to those students and teachers trying to focus on lessons. There are no breakout spaces. So while the Mercer Island Schools Foundation has funded great programs, for example the Lego Robotics 6th grade science unit, students work in hallways that are directly outside where other instruction is taking place.
The renewal levy to fund nearly 100 teachers and staff district-wide is critical to keeping student-teacher ratios from getting worse. And when we have 35 students in a given classroom, as we do now in many IMS classes, the physical space is jammed - particularly in the main building - built in 1951.
The bond will add needed capacity at IMS, including building 14 new classrooms, a larger student commons area, a larger gym in which assemblies can hold all students, new music rooms, library and administration offices. It should be noted that 100% of the existing, non-portable classrooms will stay, this bond is directed towards fixing overcrowding.
For our Island, we see this as an investment in our future. These middle school years are significant for cultivating kids’ love of learning. Our top-notch principals have done a phenomenal job given the current facility.
Please join us in voting “Yes!” on both the school and levy propositions.
Cindy Baker, Hilary Benson, Maryellen Johnson and Susan Robinson