Sense of urgency, a great need for school bond | Commentary

The Renton School Board unanimously voted to put the School Building Improvement Bond on the April 17, 2012, ballot. The bond received overwhelming support in the Feb. 14 election, yet was short by fewer than 2 percent to achieve the 60 percent approval required. Because the community’s support was so strong, we felt a responsibility to take advantage of the momentum. Our sense of urgency was confirmed by those who attended the Feb. 29 school board meeting to speak in support of this important work, specifically in support of the new middle school construction and improvements to the Lindbergh High School pool. Other reasons to proceed now are:

• Two year’s worth of planning went into the list of projects covered by the bond proposal – a citizen’s committee worked with district staff to pare down the original list of projects at a cost of $169 million to the current $97 million package, ensuring the current list includes those things that are the highest priority to the district and the community.

Like home mortgages, the interest on the sale of bonds are at historically low rates; being able to sell bonds in this climate saves taxpayers millions in interest.

• An inventory showed that the property and buildings owned by the school district total in value to almost $500 million, and it is our responsibility to maintain all of our facilities to the standard expected by the public.

• The need for the new middle school is clear and has been anticipated for some time. The district’s Enrollment Review Committee, a large group made up of district staff and community members, meets annually to study enrollment projections based on multiple sources of data that are indicators of population trends.  With the steady growth that our region has been experiencing, it was just a matter of time until the need to increase capacity became a reality. We are in the process of re-opening Honey Dew Elementary in order to accommodate the growth in the Highlands community, as most of our elementary schools are at or near capacity.  As noted in the March 9 Renton Reporter article about the bond, McKnight Middle School is the third largest in the state, a building designed for 900 students now houses almost 1,200.

• The Lindbergh High School pool became our responsibility as a result of King County’s need to transfer ownership of property to local jurisdictions.  The pool has reached its intended 40-year life and is due for major renovation.  And while the issue of operating cost remains open, the community of pool users has made a substantial contribution of time, energy and money over the past three years to keep the pool open and available to our students and the public. The inclusion of the pool upgrades is in response to that effort. The pool has become an integral community resource over the years, and we are counting on the goodwill of the voters to help us ensure its future.

As your representatives, we ask for your support in passing the bond on the April 17 ballot. It is a vital continuation of the decades of work we have done to provide excellent schools for our students, while being responsible stewards of your tax dollars.

Todd Franceschina, Al Talley, Lynn Desmarais, Pam Teal and Denise Eider

Renton School Board

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