Lake Washington schools: Big decisions for a big district
by Kate Harloe
The current Juanita High School Credit: Credit: Lake Washington School District
Voters in the Lake Washington School District are deciding on a $404 million plan for construction and modernization of facilities to keep up with growing student population.
The proposed bond issue, on the Tuesday ballot, would fund the construction of five schools, including a new science and math-focused secondary school, the rebuilding of Juanita High School and an addition to Lake Washington High School, and other capital improvements. There would also be a new middle school and three new elementaries.
The district already has more than 26,000 students, ranking it the sixth in the state. In King County, only the Seattle and Kent districts are larger. The district says it's "the “fastest growing district in the second fastest growing county in the country,” having added more than 1,000 students over the past two year. Official projections put district enrollment over its current capacity of 27,761 students by the 2016-17 school year. Over the next eight years, the district expects an increase of 4,000 students.
Most of the plan focuses on construction over redesign or renovation. The district says its confidence in construction is founded in a “modernization program” that reviews school buildings in a 30- to 40-year cycle. As part of this review, the district went through a study that included the opinions of educational and design professionals, evaluated what kinds of changes are necessary and conducted a cost-benefit analysis of whether to remodel or replace individual school facilities.
Opponents, on the other hand, have questioned the extent of construction, the size of the expenditure and the costs for local taxpayers, which one Kirkland City Council member, Toby Nixon, complains haven't been presented clearly.