School board directors vote to maintain four elementary schools

Mercer Island School Board’s five elected directors and two student directors voted unanimously to maintain four elementary schools in the district at its Nov. 9 meeting.

This vote occurred following the second reading of the position paper regarding elementary consolidation consideration — of potentially combining four smaller schools into three larger schools — within the 2023 Long Range Facilities Plan (LRFP).

Board President David D’Souza said that consolidation is presently off the LRFP table.

“So as we think about bond moving forward, the idea would be to do that with smaller schools as opposed to building 600- to 650-person schools,” said D’Souza, who added that community members voiced for this preference loud and clear. Islanders and schools staffers provided feedback to retain four elementary schools during seven outreach meetings, through emails and via an electronic survey.

According to the Mercer Island School District’s website, the LRFP committee’s work includes reviewing the prior plan, along with delving into current demographic information, facility condition, vision and mission and the district’s financial status.

In the elementary schools consolidation consideration realm, the board and committee reviewed two 10-year demographic and enrollment projections, elementary school capacity, classroom utilization, facility conditions, educational adequacy and building replacement costs, reads the aforementioned position paper. The board based its Nov. 9 vote on the information it obtained throughout the reviewal process and consideration of community and staff feedback.

“We’ll now communicate these decisions back to the Long Range Facilities Plan committee and they can use this to make other determinations now as to what bonds will go out and things like that,” said D’Souza, adding that the district’s current bonds will expire in 2028 and the next steps in the process will be forthcoming. The next version of the LRFP, which will include the retainment of the four smaller elementary schools, will be brought forth in January, according to the position paper.

D’Souza said that as new school board directors assume their spots in December, they will bring new perspectives into the fold.

“I think what’s really great is we’ve got two different school boards that are going to be looking at this data and making decisions. I think that just makes stronger and better decisions when that happens,” said D’Souza, who chose not to file for candidacy in the Nov. 7 general election.

He noted that Mercer Island has a solid history of multiple school boards working to ensure that the school community benefits from bonds, the building of schools and more.

“I really do look forward to future schools and future bonds coming on Mercer Island and just making our school system continue to get better and better,” D’Souza added.