District hears from parents on new high school idea
EVERETT - People at a meeting last week were supportive of building a new high school in fast-growing south Everett.
The meeting took place Wednesday, Sept. 11 at Evergreen Middle School.
The Everett School District is considering building a 750-student “small high school” to house all of its high school students by 2022. Right now the district’s south-end Cascade and Jackson high schools are overcapacity.
A 2022 enrollment projection estimates Everett will have 6,166 high school students by then, but the district currently only has classroom space for 5,894 students. If the district includes portables, which are undesirable, in its capacity figures, the district will have space for 6,077 high school students.
The district is assessing its building needs for a $200 to $250 million capital projects and technology bond it is preparing for voters in February 2014.
A new high school would probably be the biggest item in the 2014 bond, district facilities director Mike Gunn said. A brand-new smaller high school could cost $90 million in 2018.
Two public input meetings on what to include in the bond were scheduled for this week from 6 to 8 p.m. Monday, Sept. 16 at North Middle School and Wednesday, Sept. 18 at Mill Creek Elementary.
Last week, the district held two meetings on Wednesday and Thursday that focused on a new high school. About a dozen people attended the Wednesday meeting at Evergreen Middle School and 31 attended the Thursday meeting at Jackson High School.
At the Evergreen meeting, the district presented three scenarios to attendees: building a new high school, expanding Cascade and Jackson high schools, or converting Gateway Middle School in southwest Mill Creek into a small high school. Gateway Middle School is a 20-year-old building.
The Gateway conversion plan requires the district to build a new middle school first for about $77 million. Middle schools are cheaper to build than high schools because they lack large science labs, major athletic facilities and other items, Gunn said.
Either way, the new school would probably be built on district-owned woodlands on 180th Street on the southwest edge of the district, district spokeswoman Mary Waggoner said.
None of the parents at the Evergreen meeting supported the cheapest option of expanding Jackson and Cascade. Expanding those schools would cost $26.5 million.
“There’s no way I would send my kid to a school with 2,000 students,” one parent said.
Studies repeatedly show kids excel better in smaller schools, parent John Jones noted.
The four-person focus group arguing for converting Gateway noted the high school project’s price tag may influence voters.
“If we can tell the electorate it is cheaper (to convert Gateway) but keeps kids out of portables, it shows we are stewards of dollars,” parent Claudia McClain said.
The bond also may ask voters for money for an 18th elementary school and to buy land for a 19th elementary school, according to district documents.
North Middle School and Woodside Elementary, both built in 1981, are due for modernization and may be included in the February bond as well.
This week’s public input meetings will discuss those projects.
School board candidate Rodman Reynolds voted “none of the above” on the three scenarios presented at the Evergreen meeting. He argued the district threw money away on a $23 million administration building that instead could have been used to build more schools.
District officials have long rejected conjecture that the new building is a waste, saying the new building is cheaper than renovating the district’s current headquarters.
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