Lake Washington School District’s April 26 bond measure is the product of academic success, demographics, crowded space and a deep review.

Share story

LAKE Washington School District’s April 26 bond measure is a solid investment in the educational facilities that contribute to the district’s academic success and distinguished reputation.

Voters are asked to approve a $398 million bond measure that would pay for the renovation, rebuilding and enlargement of schools, and maintain the district’s 2015 tax rate of $3.30 per $1,000 of assessed value. Ballots will be arriving in mailboxes this week.

Projects would be phased in as other school construction work is completed. The most urgent needs were identified by a rigorous 11-month, citizen review panel — the Long-Term Facilities Planning Task Force.

This 63-member group anticipates three additional bond measures in 2018, 2022 and 2026 to continue the renovation and rebuilding, all while maintaining the 2015 tax rate.

Lake Washington School District’s capacity issues are a measure of its own success. A record of solid academic achievement contributed to a resurgence of growth and enrollment in the past half-dozen years.

The district has grown, as the bond measure literature repeats, at the rate of about 625 students each year since 2009 — about the size of one large elementary school a year. The district’s overall student population moved from sixth in the state to fourth place.

At the same time, the district was attracting more families and students, and the region, state and nation were traumatized by a stubborn recession. No one was spared, including the broadly well-to-do cities of Kirkland, Redmond and Sammamish, which are served by the district.

That cold economic chill, and increasing home valuations, contributed to the defeat of a $234 million bond measure in 2010 and two bond measures — for $755 million and $404 million — in 2014. Each failed to meet the required 60-percent approval.

Those three setbacks at the polls, and the daily urgency to house students in ever crowded schools, inspired formation of the facilities task force.

Among the projects on the April bond measure’s long to-do list is replacement and enlargement of Juanita High School and Peter Kirk Elementary School in Kirkland, construction of two new elementary schools and a new middle school in Redmond, and remodeling or replacing Margaret Mead Elementary School in Sammamish.

The construction bond also takes aim at the district’s vast number of portables, those temporary classrooms that seem to linger forever. The number hits 168 at the start of the next school year — or the equivalent of 14 percent of classrooms, the district reports.

The citizens’ panel is to be congratulated for the breadth and depth of its work. Not only did the panel parse the work list and pointedly maintain the 2015 tax rate, it also promoted cost-saving construction strategies.

The panel also looked at the consequences of not upgrading and rebuilding aging facilities. Surging student enrollment not only crowds classrooms, but it can also usurp space intended for other instructional uses.

The $398 million bond measure on the April 26 ballot represents a comprehensive response to Lake Washington School District’s most urgent building needs.

Dozens of parents, neighbors, homeowners and business owners spent nearly a year vetting a request that is mindful of the costs and lays out a plan for the years ahead.