$219 million bond calls for Liberty High School improvements

March 8, 2012

By Tom Corrigan

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NEW — 4:30 p.m. March 8, 2012

Voting by mail in the weeks leading up to April 17, roughly 58,000 registered voters in the Issaquah School District will have the chance to decide whether the schools can sell $219 million in bonds to pay for major renovation and maintenance projects throughout the district.

The capital improvement plan presented by district officials includes a wide variety of projects, including replacing several schools, and installing new roofs and carpet at other facilities. The plan was created by a long process that started in early 2011 with meetings of a bond feasibility and development committee. That group made recommendations to Superintendent Steve Rasmussen and the package eventually had to earn the approval of the school board.

The board had the final say on whether to put a bond before voters and what projects would be proposed. In dollars, the largest projects include the replacement of Clark and Sunny Hills elementary schools and Issaquah Middle School, and major renovations to Liberty High School.

The oldest schools in the district

District officials are quick to point out that Issaquah Middle School (built in 1955) Sunny Hills (built in 1962) and Clark (built in 1950) are among the most aged schools in the district. In his recommendation to the school board, Rasmussen said it was no coincidence that replacing those schools accounted for nearly half of the cost of the overall capital proposal.
Register to vote

Unregistered voters looking to cast a ballot in the April 17 special election need to register online or by mail by March 19.

Ballots for the all-mail election are expected to go out March 28.

You must have a valid Washington driver’s license in order to register online. Go to www.kingcounty.gov/elections/registration.aspx. From there, you can find a form to use for mail-in voter registration. Forms are also available at King County Elections and branches of the King County Library System.

March 19 is also the deadline for previously registered voters to change information such as name or address. Would-be voters also may register in person at one of two locations — King County Elections headquarters, 919 S.W. Grady Way, Renton, or the King County Voter Registration Annex, King County Administration Building, 500 Fourth Ave., Room 311, Seattle. Call 206-296-8683.

Voters who have never registered or voted in Washington previously have until April 9 to register, but all registrations after March 19 must be done in person.

In the board-approved package that cut Rasmussen’s proposal by $8.5 million, the price of the three schools totals $109.1 million of the overall package of $219 million. Rebuilding Issaquah Middle School will cost $62.5 million. The price tag for Clark is $19.5 million; for Sunny Hills, $27.1 million.

Officials said there are numerous efficiencies that can be achieved in new buildings.

For example, it costs 27.4 percent more to heat Issaquah Middle School than Pacific Cascade Middle School, Rasmussen said. In regard to its oldest schools, the district reached the point where a decision had to be made whether to keep spending substantial dollars on maintenance of older buildings or ask voters to allow an investment in newer structures, said Associate Superintendent Ron Thiele, who also mentioned safety issues at the older schools.

For example, the layout of doors at Issaquah Middle School makes it difficult to lock the building down in cases of emergency, he said. Moving central offices would provide better, direct views of parking lots, and students coming and going.

“I don’t want to give the impression those schools are unsafe,” Thiele said. “They are adequate… It goes to the overall improvement of the learning and teaching environments at those schools.”

As the schools are rebuilt, some will be relocated. Clark and Issaquah Middle would change places, putting Issaquah Middle closer to Issaquah High School. Tiger Mountain Community High School also would move to part of the existing Issaquah Middle School location.

Liberty High School

Renovation plans for Liberty total $44.5 million. That includes $4.8 million for rebuilding the athletic fields and stadium. Still, the biggest portion of the dollars aimed at Liberty would go toward what’s been labeled “Phase B” of its reconstruction and modernization.

Future plans for Liberty include reconfiguring and expanding the commons area; relocating and remodeling administration and counseling offices; modernizing a large number of classrooms; completing a video/TV lab and production and editing studio; modernizing the school library; and adding a new auxiliary gym. The roof would be replaced outside of the new or remodeled areas.

The existing football bleachers would be converted to the visitor’s side. New home bleachers would seat 2,000. Plans call for a press box on the west side of the field.

Tiger Mountain Community High School

The district’s alternative high school is aimed squarely at students who have struggled in a more typical classroom environment or students who simply prefer, and do better in, an alternative-learning environment. If the bond package wins approval, the school would be relocated to the current location of Issaquah Middle School. Total cost: $3.9 million.

A renovated and modernized Tiger Mountain would allow the expansion of career and technical training for district students, not necessarily just those who attend Tiger. In the past, school board members and administrators have discussed making new Tiger programs available to all district students as much as possible.

The revamped Tiger would have added hours of operation in order to give students more classroom time. Officials envision new science-, technology-, engineering- and math-related programs. A culinary arts program would be expanded. At one point, administrators said they had not fully programmed the new Tiger, as that seemed a bit of a wasted exercise if voters do not approve the bond.

Tiger also could serve as home base to expanded online educational offerings.

Stadiums and artificial turf

As preparation of the bond package moved forward, administrators and school board members admitted this part of the package might be a tough sell with voters. The proposal calls for a major revamping of stadiums at all three mainstream district high schools. Additionally, artificial turf would replace existing natural fields at all district middle schools. Rubberized running tracks would replace existing cinder tracks. Total cost of athletic field work at all schools, not including Issaquah Middle School, is $18.3 million.

Of the high schools, Skyline would receive the most attention with a $6.4 million project. Covered, home-side stands seating 2,500 would be built at Skyline’s stadium, along with a bigger press box, more restroom space and additional concession areas.

Maintenance and other projects

The project list includes specific work at roughly 21 of the district’s 24 schools. Besides those projects already listed, the program would include $7.2 million in expansion and improvements at Apollo Elementary School. Issaquah Valley Elementary School also would receive an addition and other improvements at a cost of $8.5 million. The space additions would create room for 120 more students at each school.

Other schools would receive greatly varying degrees of attention. For example, Challenger Elementary School is slated for new flooring, an upgraded intercom system and a new fire alarm system. Total cost is $455,000.

The program list also includes numerous district-wide projects. Electronic locks and a card-key access system would be installed at all schools. The district would spend $2.6 million to install security cameras and closed circuit TV systems in each building.

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