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Northshore School District wants you! New task forces to help with planning new high school
Building a new high school is a complicated and expensive process. From planning and designing, to procuring the funds there are many details that have to be ironed out before a single shovel goes in the ground or the mascot is chosen.
The Northshore School District (NSD) has been busy getting the word out about its plans for a new high school located near Fernwood Elementary and is looking for feedback from community members.
“The main idea is awareness. What is being considered and why,” said NSD Superintendent Larry Francois. “They generally get it and they are generally excited about the new school.”
Francois has held more than 60 meetings since November with PTA members, staff and community members. Those meetings are to relay plans and answer questions about grade reconfiguration and construction. Francois plans to continue meeting with as many community members as possible.
The superintendent, who is joined for many of the meetings by school board members, said he has spoken to more than 2,000 people so far in groups of 12 to 100 or more. He has even met with Rotary and Kiwanis groups in an effort to get out to more of the community.
“Most are interested in the educational aspects,” said Francois. “This community understands the connection between investing in schools and quality schools.
“There have been two main ways people respond: being positive about the instructional benefits, and the increased opportunity for ninth and sixth graders.”
The NSD also wants to assemble various task forces by the end of spring to help plan for all the elements of the transition. These task forces will be made up of community members, teachers, students and district officials. Applications for the various task forces will be available on the district website at www.nsd.org.
Francois said that the NSD has to figure out what it wants from the school’s instruction and that will be a main job of the task forces.
“The school architect can design around that,” said Francois. “We want to work thoughtfully on this. Every high school is unique.”
Population growth in the north end of Bothell is fueling the need for a new high school. But there are other instructional needs as well.
“One-third of all the ninth graders bus to the high school for classes,” said Francois. “This will create greater equality between schools.”
The new high school would be roughly 250,000 square feet and able to accommodate 1,600 students.
The reconfiguration means that the district will go from having a K-6, 7-9 and 10-12 grade level configuration to K-5, 6-8 and 9-12 district wide.
The different task forces will also focus on the impact of reconfiguration on the various schools in the NSD.
There are some elementary schools in the north end of the district that are over capacity. Moving sixth grade to the middle schools and ninth grade to the high schools helps to balance enrollment. There will also be other changes affecting students in Snohomish County.
“We can’t let Everett students into the district,” said Francois.
The district has let some Everett School District students, who live north of the 180th St. S.E. boundary, apply for Northshore schools. Coincidentally, the boundary for the districts is just four blocks north of the new high school site but the new rule would apply to all schools.
Francois said that he hoped to put together a joint cities meeting with all of the municipalities affected by potential changes.
The Capital Bond Planning Task Force is responsible for funding the new high school and making sure that there is enough money in the bond to cover the other needs of the district. The NSD hopes to have the bond plan finalized by summer.
“There are 31 other schools to think about as well,” said Francois. “There are limited needs at other schools like building modernization and maintenance so we don’t fall behind.”
All those issues will be combined into the ballot measure set for next February. The bulk of the bond will be for the new high school the district hopes to open in 2017.
Francois emphasizes that the size of the new bond will be similar to the expiring bond measure.
“We are targeting a bond that is similar to the last one and we want to be thoughtful about the entire plan,” said Francois.
He is optimistic about getting the bond passed.
“There is a greater sense that the economy is improving. People feel more confidence,” said Francois. “But I can see the down side. Hopefully the interest rates stay low. The upside of a down economy is low interest rates.”
The NSD has looked to the Issaquah School District, Lake Washington School District and Puyallup School District officials for advice on building the new school as they have each rebuilt or built a new high school during the past few years.