Bond funds new middle school in Renton district
May 3, 2012
By Christina Lords
Voters pass school measure with 60.57 percent of the vote
Newcastle will be the home of a new Renton School District middle school after residents voted to fund the project as a part of a $97 million school bond that passed by 60.57 percent April 17.
More than 10,300 people voted in favor of the measure, which funds the school, improvements to the Lindbergh High School pool and other construction costs, while about 6,700 rejected it.
School district spokesman Randy Matheson said while the district has not yet begun laying out specifics of the school, it should open its doors by the 2016 school year.
The Renton School Board voted Feb. 29 to rerun the bond after its first run in the Feb. 14 special election originally came up two points shy — or about 300 votes — of the 60 percent needed to pass.
Of the $97 million requested by the district, $53.2 million will go toward building the new middle school in Newcastle and $5.5 million will go toward improvements of the Lindbergh High School swimming pool.
About $5 million will be used for the district’s land acquisition for future projects, $5.9 million will go for upgrading existing facilities, $8.8 million will go toward energy conservation district wide and $18.6 million will go toward building upgrades for existing structures.
Citizens for Renton Schools Chair John Galluzzo said a major setback to gathering enough support for the bond the first time around was giving residents a clear picture of what the bond would mean to them financially.
“This is positive proof of the school district’s standing with citizens that it serves,” he said. “People have to vote for those bonds. They have to commit their own funds. I think the improvement they’ve seen in the school district shows that people are saying, ‘we see you as good stewards of the money. We see the money we give to you is paying off.’”
According to the district, the bond collection rate will be an additional 18 cents per $1,000 in assessed property value, or about $46 per year for the average homeowner. That rate includes funding from all past voter approved bond measures plus the new bond measure.
The proposed levy/bond rate for those living in the district would increase to $5.39 per $1,000 of assessed value in 2013, up from $5.21 per $1,000 of assessed value in 2012.
The bond, which was identical to the one run previously, will fund the new middle school at the former Hazelwood Elementary School site, now home to the Renton Academy.
Matheson said it has not yet been determined if the school will be a traditional middle school or a magnet school that could focus on specialized curriculum such as math or science.
The Renton Academy provides alternative education services for students in the district. Those students will be moved to a new location yet to be determined, he said.
According to data collected by the RSD, the 213 middle schools in the state of Washington have an average of 609 students per facility.
McKnight Middle School, of which most students in Newcastle that live in the Renton district attend, has 1,152 students, while Dimmitt Middle School and Nelsen Middle School have 1,038 and 970 students, respectively.
There are 14 elementary schools that feed into the three middle schools in the RSD.
“McKnight Middle School is one of the most overcrowded middle schools in the state,” Matheson said. “That’s not conducive to a good learning environment. As a district, we have to figure out how to ease that overcrowding and this is one way to do that. We need an environment where students and teachers can thrive, learn and have more opportunity for growth.”