In January, Everett Public Schools entered negotiations with 16 landowners of 24 separate parcels of land we hope to buy for future schools...

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In January, Everett Public Schools entered negotiations with 16 landowners of 24 separate parcels of land we hope to buy for future schools.

The properties are east of Sunset Road, between 164th and 180th streets southeast, just outside Snohomish County’s urban-growth-area boundary in the southeastern portion of the school district. This is the region of the district where growth has been most rapid and where population experts tell us growth will continue over the next 20 years.

In fact, the Washington state Office of Financial Management tells us that population in our district will grow between 15 and 20 percent over the next two decades. This means the district will need three new elementary schools and more classroom space for middle-school and high-school students between now and 2028.

Anticipating growth and knowing the district must have land available for future schools, voters in February 2006 approved a bond measure that included money to buy land. Current property negotiations are the district’s enactment of a promise made two years ago and a continuation of this district’s tradition of proactive planning.

Such planning made it possible to build Henry M. Jackson High School, Gateway Middle School, Penny Creek Elementary and Forest View Elementary — when and where they were needed. Those schools provide exceptional learning environments for students from the neighborhoods now established in the south end of the district. The planning and land purchase for them happened years in advance of their construction.

Our negotiations are structured around legal requirements set by the state. These include market-value property valuations done by state-certified appraisers. We are offering $750 to property owners to pay the costs of their own property appraisal or professional evaluation of our offer.

These properties are in the right location for necessary future schools, and they meet the criteria for school buildings. The district’s facilities-acquisition team has evaluated them for wetlands, steep slopes, traffic and roadway conditions and future availability of public utilities, such as sewer, water, natural gas and electricity.

Acquisition of these properties by the district will provide flexibility for the future. Depending upon a final design and grade-level configuration, a school requires between 12 and 50 acres of buildable land. For example, elementary schools take up less space than high schools.

“Buy land; they’re not making it anymore,” Mark Twain said more than 100 years ago. Obviously, it is true today, and as time passes, there will be fewer and fewer sites large enough for the schools our students will need.

If we act now, the district will have property in the future to build schools where students will live.

Dr. Carol Whitehead is superintendent of Everett Public Schools.