The voters of Mercer Island supported with 74 percent approval a $98.8 million bond proposition in February 2014 to relieve overcrowding in Mercer Island schools. In doing so, the district made a promise to the community.
That promise has been kept.
Three years ago, the community saved $9 million on the sale of the bonds because of the careful management of the schools’ operating budget and resulting credit rating. Now, we have completed the new Northwood Elementary School, as well as significant expansions to Mercer Island High School and Islander Middle School that included the replacement of over 50,000 square feet of the old Islander Middle School. Most importantly, all three projects were completed on time and on budget.
The first project, the expansion of Mercer Island High School, opened for the 2015-16 school year and included four science labs and six general education classrooms.
Northwood opened for the 2016-17 school year as the first new public school constructed on the Island in more than 50 years. Mahlum Architects, the building designers, have received numerous awards, including an Award of Excellence from the American Institute of Architects Committee on Architecture for Education, one of only five given nationally this year.
With the Northwood facility opening, we were able to establish new elementary enrollment boundaries to create neighborhood elementary schools that students can walk or bike to. All our schools have been “right sized” with common areas able to accommodate enrolled students comfortably for classes, lunch, PE, assemblies, and recesses. Finally, most of the portable classrooms being used at the elementary schools have been eliminated, opening up fields and playgrounds.
The Islander Middle School project, also completed for the 2016-17 school year, right-sized the common spaces, including, the library, commons and cafeteria, gymnasium and administrative space. Thirteen new classrooms replaced portables and created expanded lab spaces, and the music wing was replaced with state of the art facilities. Here too, the shared areas such as the commons/cafeteria and gyms are sized to accommodate our growing enrollment for meals, PE, and assemblies.
We are grateful to the Mercer Island community for their contributions and support of this effort. Of special note are the 2014 school board members Adair Dingle, Brian Emanuels, Dave Myerson, Janet Frohnmayer and Pat Braman, who approved the 2014 bond resolution. The two remaining board members from that effort, Dingle and Myerson, are leaving this month after a combined 20 years of dedicated service to our District. Thank you for your service and always putting students first.
Thank you to our recently-retired superintendent Dr. Gary Plano for shepherding these projects to completion prior to his departure at the end of the 2016-17 school year. Also, instrumental to this effort were Dean Mack, the district’s longtime chief financial officer, who retired last June after four decades of service to public education, Tony Kuhn, director of maintenance and operations, and Brandy Fox, our dedicated project manager.
This bond was successfully stewarded to completion by our new Superintendent Donna Colosky, Executive Director of Finance Ty Bergstrom and the board. We recognize our schools are a community asset to be nurtured and developed. We are proud of the governance and operating policies upheld by the school board and district that provide continuity and consistency.
Thank you to the Mercer Island community for your continuing support of Mercer Island students.
Mercer Island School Board members are Tracy Drinkwater, David D’Souza, Brian Giannini Upton, Ralph Jorgenson and Deborah Lurie.