Bond includes dollars for relocating, rebuilding schools
March 13, 2012
By Tom Corrigan
Of the total $219 million bond package proposed by the Issaquah School District, four projects account for roughly half of those dollars.
If district voters approve the issue in a special election April 17, plans call for rebuilding the district’s three oldest schools, Clark and Sunny Hills elementary schools, along with Issaquah Middle School. Total cost: $109.1 million.
Intertwined with the plans to rebuild Clark and IMS is the plan to rebuild Tiger Mountain Community High School on part of what is now the IMS campus. Cost of that project is estimated at $3.9 million.
The overall plan
The buildings involved are old and largely past their useful life spans.
A bond feasibility and development committee developed the original capital improvement program during planning sessions held roughly a year ago. One long debate was whether to propose rebuilding the oldest schools or to push for dollars to repair and maintain those buildings.
“It was a big question,” said Steve Crawford, district director of capital projects.
Ultimately, the bond committee decided it would be cheaper to rebuild now, rather than spend money on maintaining the older buildings and replacing them later, Crawford and others said.
Overall, the plan would play a bit of musical chairs with the locations of Clark, IMS and Tiger Mountain. The changes allow the district to rebuild the schools while keeping present facilities open and, more importantly to the bottom line, allows those buildings to be reconstructed without the district having to buy new property, said Jake Kuper, district chief of finances and operations.
The relocation plans also allow the district to make use of portions of IMS that were remodeled in 1997, Crawford said.
“It’s just brilliant,” said IMS Principal Corrine DeRosa, referring to the plans to reuse portions of IMS while still giving students from three schools new facilities. The plan to rebuild Clark carries a price tag of $19 million, $8 million less than the $27 million that would go for a new Sunny Hills though the schools would be similar in size, Kuper said during a recent public meeting.
If plans move forward, the current IMS site on First Avenue Southeast would become home to a revamped Tiger Mountain and an almost new Clark Elementary. IMS would be rebuilt at the roomier Clark site on Second Avenue Southeast, adjacent to Issaquah High School. That would allow for expansion of the school and the eventual addition of up-to-date athletic facilities, according to Crawford and others.
The future of the IMS site
Deconstructing the bond
A four-part series about the Issaquah School District’s proposed $219 million bond.
Part 1 of 4: How the bond could impact schools
Part 2 of 4: The plan to rebuild schools
Part 3 of 4: The plan for renovation
Part 4 of 4: The plan to upgrade stadiums
Plans call for saving the front lobby portion of IMS, along with the gym, library and administrative offices, basically what is now the front of the building. Those areas would become the heart of a new Clark.
IMS classrooms are slated for demolition. The two-story second building would become part of a revamped Tiger. Because of high ceilings and other features, the second building is a perfect spot for expanded Tiger vocational offerings, DeRosa said. Clark and Tiger will be separate from each other, she added. Each school would have its own entrances and exits.
Kuper and Crawford both talked about how limited access to the current IMS site creates traffic congestion. Parking is described as difficult and insufficient. The rebuilding would address those problems.
There are any number of issues with the current condition and layout of the existing IMS, according to DeRosa. Perhaps the biggest concern is the layout of the school, described by DeRosa as sort of a California style. Classrooms are not connected by indoor hallways. Each classroom door leads outside and students must go outside to move from one class to the next.
Student lockers line outside walls. While some walkways are covered, DeRosa said students and staff members are exposed to the weather far too often. When visiting classrooms, DeRosa said she often takes an umbrella.
Beyond the layout, there are other problems.
“Things are falling apart,” she said, adding the number of work and maintenance orders for the building increase ever year.
One issue is heating. After the snowstorm that shut down the district in January, IMS had no heat for two days after schools reopened, DeRosa said. The heating system is so antiquated the district has had to get parts from other countries.
IMS is far from a green building, Crawford said, adding that the California layout is not at all energy efficient. Speaking about older schools in general, Crawford said they do not have modern glass or much in the way of insulation.
DeRosa noted IMS has no air conditioning. However, the school’s heating bills are 27 percent more than heating and cooling bills at Pacific Cascade Middle School, which does have air conditioning.
A new Clark
Clark opened its doors to students in 1951 and the school marked its 60th anniversary in September. Principal May Pelto said the school received some upgrades in the early 1990s. Those included some unique features, such as a kiln and a dedicated art room.
The building has 17 classrooms and holds about 350 students. Overall, Clark would grow in size with the move, making room for an additional 160 students. Kuper said the existing Clark is small compared to newer district elementary schools.
Proving there has been some inflation between the 1950s and today, Clark’s original construction cost, including an addition added shortly after the school opened, was reported as $486,000, or $10.76 per square foot.
Aging infrastructure and the overuse of portable classrooms are problems Sunny Hills Principal Sarah White mentions when talking about potential rebuilding of her school. She said the roof needs attention, the plumbing system is failing and a fresh coat of paint is needed in many spots.
Sunny Hills is home to about 570 students. The school has two restrooms. One is sometimes out of commission — one possible explanation is that tree roots clog the system, White said.
Like the outside classrooms at IMS, White said Sunny Hills’ portables are grossly inefficient in terms of heating. With the classrooms separated, teachers have difficulty with collaborative projects.
“I wouldn’t want anyone to think their kids aren’t safe here or having a good learning experience,” White said.
But she invited parents or others to walk through newer, fully enclosed schools and notice the differences.
A new Sunny Hills would rise next to the current building.
Tom Corrigan: 392-6434, ext. 241, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.