Last March 8th, the Snoqualmie Valley School Board voted 3-2 to proceed with annexing Snoqualmie Middle School (SMS) to Mount Si High School for use as a Freshman Learning Center (FLC) in 2013, closing the district’s oldest middle school.
Board members Marci Busby, Dan Popp and Scott Hodgins voted to proceed. Board members Geoff Doy and Carolyn Simpson voted against proceeding with the FLC and reducing to two middle schools. In addition to his annexation vote, Scott Hodgins also proposed a motion to run a replacement middle school bond again, indicating he didn’t support a 9th grade campus without a replacement school for SMS. That same March night, the board voted 5-0 to run a replacement middle school bond in 2013.
But, in the past few months, the school board has discussed future school bond options other than running a repeat replacement middle school bond. They’ve talked about modernizing and expanding Mount Si to allow for growth and bringing a freshman learning center concept to Mount Si’s traditional 9th-12th grade campus. Board member Scott Hodgins said he believes a comprehensive high school is 9th-12th grade and that a separate 9th grade campus should be temporary; other board members agreed during that discussion.
Geoff Doy said he doesn’t believe running a repeat middle school bond will pass; that our district learned that lesson when it tried three times to pass a bond for a second high school and failed. The board agreed a February bond, no matter what the content, was “nearly impossible” due to the short time frame.
So what’s the next step? What is the next bond the SVSD school board will send to the public? What are the building needs to support student education? For the board, that’s still unclear, but what’s clear is that it won’t happen in February. The board decided that since they haven’t come to a consensus on building needs (though they are having good conversations), there isn’t enough time to run a successful bond campaign with a February deadline.
The April ballot then becomes the next SVSD school bond possibility. The board set a school bond work session for Saturday, Sept. 15th, from 8AM – 12PM to help find consensus; something they feel is key to running and passing a school bond. Dan Popp said the original replacement bond for SMS most likely won’t be the solution the board pursues and then added, “at least for February.”
Now that February is out, school district officials can begin work on the middle school boundary changes scheduled for next year when SMS transitions to a 9th grade campus. Last year officials said they did not want to make those boundary changes until after the February replacement middle school bond; stating if it passed and a reduction to two middle schools was temporary, that would affect where the new boundaries were drawn through Snoqualmie. The board agreed the sooner the boundaries were drawn, the better.
The school board is still hopeful for an April 2013 school bond if it’s needed. They are also aware if they do not run a bond next year, a future attempt may have to wait until 2015, as there is an important school levy to run in 2014. Board members stated that there is some risk to running bonds and levies in the same year.
The plan now is for the board to come together and find a building solution and a publicly supportable school bond they can all agree on. If they can, waiting to run that bond in April allows time to engage the community in the process; ensuring the community knows time was taken to find the best possible school bond option to meet the long-term educational needs of the growing district.
The meeting ended with Geoff Doy proposing a new district policy “to do with education pathways and benchmarks.” More information on the proposed education policy will be presented at the next school board meeting on Thursday, September 13th, at 7:30PM at the District Office.