Board approves February 9, 2016 school bond and replacement levy election
The Olympia School Board has unanimously agreed to place a school bond on the February 9, 2016 Special Election ballot to address continued enrollment growth districtwide and smaller class size at the elementary level.
The proposed bond also calls for updating school security, renovating aging school buildings and some athletic fields, building a larger performance theater at Capital High School, and making other facility improvements.
Voters will also be asked in February to consider a four-year maintenance and operations replacement levy. The levy would replace one approved by voters in 2012 to help pay for day-to-day learning needs such as teaching, school supplies, athletics and activities, and transportation.
The maintenance and operations levy pays for nearly one quarter of the district’s $109 million operating budget. School levies cover the gap between state funding and the cost of existing education programs.
The board’s decision to place the school bond and levy measures before voters in February comes after an extensive community and school staff input and review process of facility needs that began last spring with the formation of a 15-member Citizens Facilities Advisory Committee. Shortly after the committee formed, the district held a public forum to gather community input on facility needs.
The committee’s work included a detailed study of the condition of school buildings districtwide, as well as a review of space needs to accommodate continued enrollment growth and address Initiative 1351, which calls for reduced class size at the elementary level statewide.
In the next 10 years, district enrollment is projected to grow by nearly 1,400 students, said Jennifer Priddy, assistant superintendent of finance and operations. This year, enrollment is up 267 students compared to last year.
Once the school board received its final list of proposed bond projects from district leadership in September, it held two community forums in September to gather feedback on the facilities options before holding a first and second reading, as well as a vote on the bond resolution, in October.
Proposed bond projects
The proposed 2016 school bond is a continuation of facility improvement projects approved by voters in the last school bond in 2012.
Phase I of the two phases included projects such as construction of the Olympia Regional Learning Academy (ORLA) building and renovations at Garfield Elementary and Jefferson Middle School.
The district informed voters in 2012 that Phase II projects would address other facility planning needs as identified in the district’s 2011 Master Plan.
The $160.7 million proposed school bond includes the following:
- Create more classroom space by constructing two-story mini-buildings, designed for between seven and 11 classrooms, at Hansen, Pioneer, Centennial, McLane, and Roosevelt elementary schools. The free-standing buildings would be equipped with restrooms on each floor, an elevator, some administrative office and storage areas, and a band/orchestra room. Exterior finishes and colors would be designed to coordinate with the main one-story school buildings. “We want it to feel like it is all one campus,” Priddy said. The mini-buildings would effectively reduce the district’s reliance on portable classroom buildings, providing better safety and security for students being housed in one small building rather than numerous portable classrooms, she said. Additionally, she said clustering classes in a small building provides opportunities for teachers to have grade-level teaming and collaboration. The bond also proposes setting aside money for one additional mini-building that would be placed in a location with the greatest need based on enrollment growth.
- Create more classroom space at Olympia High School by building a two-story building behind Ingersoll Stadium and the tennis courts and baseball fields. The building design calls for 22 classrooms, including more science labs to address increased state graduation requirements for lab science credits. The expansion also proposes space for a commons area, conference rooms, and a small office. As with the smaller mini-buildings proposed at the elementary level, this high school expansion would have restrooms on each floor and an elevator. Also, a synthetic turf natural infill athletic field also would be added to replace a grass field along Henderson Avenue just east of Ingersoll Stadium. The field would be used as a practice and game field. Plans are to have junior varsity and varsity football and soccer games continue to be played at Ingersoll Stadium.
- Renovate aging Centennial, McLane, and Roosevelt Elementary schools. McLane is 28 years old, while Centennial and Roosevelt are each 26 years old. The renovation projects include improvements to the school buildings and fields, as well as the addition of an auxiliary gym at Centennial Elementary. All three school projects are eligible for state matching construction grants.
- Build a new Capital High School theater to accommodate 500 seats — an increase of at least 150 seats from the current 350-person capacity. The proposal calls for converting the current theater into a lecture hall. The bond also proposes a Capital High School renovation project, including updating the building’s windows, roofing, and siding, as well as adding a synthetic natural in-fill turf athletic field for games and practices. Finally, plans are to have junior varsity and varsity football and soccer games continue to be played at Ingersoll Stadium. Capital High School Athletic Director Steve Bellande said the proposed turf field would be a resource for the school, as well as available for use by community youth sports groups.
- Remodel and expand enrollment at Avanti High School. As part of this project, the bond proposes purchasing and doing a light remodel of The Olympian building to house district administration, which currently shares the Knox Building with Avanti High School.
Other projects include adding a new roof at Marshall Middle School and repairing or replacing the Madison and LP Brown elementary school roofs; completing security camera installations at elementary schools districtwide; investing in electronic key systems to limit access to schools and initiate a lockdown; demolishing or decommissioning the 50-year-old John Rogers School (unused) building; improving some school lighting and heating, air-conditioning, and ventilation (HVAC) systems; renovating some school fields in addition to those listed above; and doing a variety of small facility maintenance projects to enhance safety, save energy, and extend the building’s lifespan.
Cost for both proposed measures
Based on the district’s total current (2015) tax rate of $5.23, the bond and levy would result in a new estimated combined district tax rate of $5.46 per $1,000 of assessed valuation.
The average homeowner of a $250,000 house will pay an estimated $58 more per year, or about $5 more per month, for the bond and levy. Exemptions are available for senior citizens and people with disabilities.
The estimated tax rate is within two cents of the school district’s projections four years ago when outlining for voters the projected cost for Phase II school improvement projects.