Wednesday, June 15, 2011

A focus on student housing . . .

This evening we had the first meeting of the new committee focused on student housing needs. The Board directed us to form an ad hoc committee to study and make recommendations for the short and long term student housing needs in the school district. Twenty community members are the decision-making component of the committee. In addition there are two board member representatives, a TEA and PSE representative, and district staff who will facilitate and provide support for the group.

Since the April bond measure was presented designed to continue our work with the same grade level configurations and delivery models was defeated, this committee has an opportunity to be creative in considering options. They can and will look at using buildings in different ways and will also explore other delivery models as they consider options for the board.

The first meeting resulted in many questions about our current reality and reflection on what we did and didn’t do to create an understanding of the problems we are facing. It will be interesting and difficult to keep focused on our narrow task because in the back of everyone’s mind is that need to market and pass a bond measure. I believe that we were successful in starting a sense of urgency to identify short term solutions to our overcrowding, something that we have not been able to do with the general public. I’ll share more as we move forward.

Related to housing is the potential for not being able to add capacity at the Junior High or to build an elementary school on the acreage we own to the west of the Junior High. The King County Executive has proposed amending the Countywide Planning Policies to make it more difficult, if not impossible, to build schools in the rural area. Even though we already have the sewer line to our property, the proposed changes would preclude a public school from being served by a sewer tightline. This would mean needing to find land within the city of Maple Valley to build a new school costing the tax payers millions, if we could even find the property. The April bond measure, at $125 million, was based on adding capacity to the Junior High and building a new elementary on our property.

We have been working with the Maple Valley City Council and city staff in an effort to influence the decision makers that the proposed changes are bad policy. They understand our needs and have been very supportive in assisting us with this issue. There are multiple districts in King County that own property in the rural area with plans for building new schools. A coalition is supporting us in trying to influence the executive office, but without much success thus far. The Growth Management Planning Council is scheduled to take public comment at their June 29th meeting from 4:00 to 5:30 p.m. at the Puget Sound Regional Council, 5th Floor Board Room, 1011 Western Ave., Seattle. This is a VERY IMPORTANT meeting for us to have a visible and verbal presence.

I’ll share more as we approach the date.

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