OVERCROWDING ACROSS THE DISTRICT
The Lake Washington School District has built 28 new schools with over $1 BILLION in bond and levy funds approved by voters since 1998.* With so many new schools, how can the district have an overcrowding crisis? What went wrong in the Facilities Planning Department over the past 20 years?
The district built 18 brand new, modern elementary schools in the past 20 years: Baker (2018), Barton (2018), Bell (2011), Carson (2008), Franklin (2006), Juanita (2005), Keller (2013), Kirk (2019), Frost (2009), Mann (2003), Mead (2019), Muir (2013), Rosa Parks (2006), Rose Hill (2006), Rush (2014), Sandburg (2012), Thoreau (2003) and Twain (2000). All of the buildings are new, beautiful - and overcrowded.
The district also has 5 new middle school buildings: Finn Hill MS (2014), Kirkland MS (2004), Redmond MS (2002), Rose Hill MS (2014) and Timberline MS (2019). Three of the 5 schools were built within the last 5 years.
Lake Washington High School opened in 2011 and is now getting an addition. Juanita High School Phase 1 opened in 2019. Redmond High School was rebuilt in 2003 and got an addition in 2013. Eastlake High School got an addition in 2014. Tesla STEM High School opened in 2014. International Community School 6-12 was completed in 2014. There has been non-stop construction in the district with new schools opening and additions being completed year after year. More than 100 portables were added across the district in the past 20 years.
Except for Baker, Barton, Carson and Rosa Parks, all new elementary schools that were built replaced schools that had been demolished. All of the demolished schools were less than 40 years old. The Facilities Planning Department repeatedly tore down usable schools as the overcrowding crisis grew.
Consider that if the new Mead Elementary had been built on an alternate site in Sammamish and the old Mead Elementary had been upgraded so that it was still in use, there would be significant elementary classroom capacity in Sammamish. Similarly, if Kirk Elementary had been updated instead of torn down and a new elementary had been built elsewhere in Kirkland, the District would not have needed the April 2019 construction levy for $120,000,000 for additions on Carson, Franklin, Rose Hill and Twain Elementaries.
The Growth Management Act became law in 1990 and the cities, county and schools were required to plan for the new growth. Why didn't the Lake Washington School District see enrollment increases coming and plan for all the new students? Our current school board has never questioned why all of the older schools were being torn down instead of remodeled. The board never asked why the new schools couldn't handle the expected capacity increases.
If elected, I will advocate for the District to create a new position "Director of Facilities Planning" and then hire an experienced leader from outside the school district to address years of mismanagement.
*1998 Bonds: $160 million, 2006 Bonds: $436 million, 2011 Levy: $65 million, 2016 Bonds: $398 million, State Matching Funds: $57 million; Total: $1,116,000,000. The Lake Washington School District currently has $660 million in outstanding bond debt and will owe $250 million in interest over the life of the bonds.