In the last few weeks I have been on a number of chat site discussions, surveys, email threads and person-to-person discussions about the boundary changes in the Lake Washington School District.  I believe that the blame for re-drawing the boundary lines should point directly at past and current LWSD school board members, as well as past and current Superintendents.  In short, they’ve made their bed and now they have to lay in it.  Unfortunately, so do the families and students in the District.

I’ve spent a number of posts discussing, dissecting and disagreeing with our school district’s use of and requests for bond funds.  It’s no secret that I am not a fan of the disregard for public taxpayer dollars used for buildings and properties in the Lake Washington School District (LWSD).  I believe that the current re-drawing of boundaries is the result of YEARS of fiscal extravagance while avoiding the real issues of growth and future expansions.

The District has decided that the only way to fix the problem of not enough classrooms vs. too many students is to build portables like crazy and to change the boundaries for many of the schools in the district.  While this is a temporary solution to a long-term problem, it is inadequate and at best a Band-Aid.

Here is a link to the map of the LWSD boundaries (as they stand today).  It’s interactive in that you can request elementary, middle or high school boundaries on the map.

The District has stated for several years now that growth is coming and has given us numbers like “4,000” incoming students by the 2021-22 school year.  At its January 26, 2015, the school board approved the boundary committee’s recommendations that have been in the works for several months.

The boundary changes are divided into four learning communities:

Eastlake (affects Blackwell, Carson, McAuliffe, Mead and Smith elementarys)

Affected Student #’s (current and projected future):  149

Juanita (affects Bell, Frost, Juanita, Keller, Muir, Sandburg and Thoreau)

Affected Student #’s (current and projected future):  113

Lake Washington (affects Audubon, Franklin, Kirk, Lakeview, Rose Hill, Rush and Twain)

Affected Student #’s (current and projected future):  160

Also affects 53 middle and high school students (see the chart).

Redmond (affects Alcott, Dickinson, Einstein, Mann, Redmond, Rockwell, Rosa Parks and Wilder)

Affected Student #’s (current and projected future):  523

Also affects 88 middle school students moving from Redmond Middle School (RMS) to Evergreen Middle School (EMS).

So the boundary re-drawing helps by shifting 945 elementary students and 141 middle and high school students around; a total of 1,086 students affected (begins in the 2015-16 school year).  “Enrollment projections are based on current enrollments, King County birth rates, plus known planned development. Projections do not include assumptions for grandfathering.”

For the Eastlake community (based on charts referenced above), elementary enrollment is projected to decrease from 2,646 (2014-15) to 2,313 (2017-18).  Total change in 3 years:  333 students decrease.

Juanita community elementary enrollment is projected to increase from 2,612 (2014-15) to 2,669 (2017-18).  Total change in 3 years:  57 students increase.

Lake Washington community elementary enrollment is projected to increase from 3,211 (2014-15) to 3,578 (2017-18).  Total change in 3 years:  367 students increase.

Redmond community elementary enrollment is projected to increase from 4,246 (2014-15) to 4,562 (2017-18).  Total change in 3 years:  316 students increase.

Total change in District (elementary only):  407 (increase).

As I see it the boundary change does NOTHING (or next to it) to resolve the problem.  However, the District is adding more portables so this should completely avoid the crisis for at least another 3 years, right?

LWSD currently has 31 Elementary Schools, 13 Middle and 9 High Schools according to the “Strategic Plan” document.  It covers 76 square miles and is the sixth largest district in Washington State “with more than 25,000 students in 51 schools”.

I recommended in my post of April 24, 2014 that the District begin the process of replacing portables with permanent buildings.  In the case of Rockwell Elementary, there are currently 5 portables on site (10 classrooms with a capacity of 300 students available).  A permanent structure similar to the “B Wing” at Redmond High would provide 12-14 classrooms with student capacity of 360-420.  This permanent structure could be placed on the current Rockwell site so that it wouldn’t interfere with planned future building IF the District had plans currently drawn for the modernization of Rockwell.  The portables could be removed, freeing up some space and improving the overall look of Rockwell until the modernization construction was complete.

LWSD estimates it takes between $30-35 million to construct and equip a new elementary school.  The district was considering purchasing land for an elementary school in the Redmond area (north of 116th Street in Redmond), which was meant to help the over-crowding in that area, namely Rockwell Elementary.  At this point plans haven’t even been drawn or drafted for proposed schools, let alone property purchased so the process of building is long and drawn-out.

There are certainly other options that could be considered; although none of them are quick, easy or inexpensive fixes.  The District would like to place the blame on the voters that rejected 3 bond issues for facilities; however there are still funds left over from an approved bond source of roughly $10-16 million which is being quickly eaten up by portable construction.

The District also has begun the process for facilities review by creating A Long-Term Facilities Planning Task Force.  Please be aware that this is for facilities recommendations for 2018 and beyond.

More links with District sourced information:

Enrollment Report October 2014 (all schools)
Six Year Capital Facilities Plan (2014-2019)  Page 14 lists purchased property in Redmond Ridge East; also portable information.

  • Some portable classrooms are singles (30 students), some are doubles (60 students).
  • As of January 29, 2015 there are 128 portable classrooms; detailed in section VI “Relocatable and Transitional Classrooms” in the CFP. Between 2009 and 2014-2015 school years approximately 42 portable classrooms have been placed on a variety of sites (the listing is unclear how many portables were placed in the Northstar/Renaissance relocations).
  • Appendix A-1 shows an entire listing of all portable classrooms district wide.
  • Appendix B shows Impact fee calculations and funds
  • Appendixes E1-3 show estimated costs of building Elementary, Middle and High school buildings based on construction of similar sites

Educational Specification
Short Term Plan

A review of some of the facts I researched regarding the two failed bond issues in February and April of 2014 which gives some background on WHY boundary re-draws and portable classrooms have become the fix.

In my post of July 2013Cost vs. Value” I researched the cost of a portable classroom in the LWSD, based on construction of two portables at Redmond High School (RHS) and 1 at Redmond Middle School (RMS).  Based on information from Kathryn Reith, Communications Director at LWSD, the cost for a portable “building” was at that time $380,000.  A portable holds two classrooms of roughly 30 students each for a capacity of 60 students.

At the time RHS had just completed the construction of an addition, called “B Wing” which is a brick and mortar structure (permanent classroom).  This structure was part of an addition that included an auxiliary gym.  The cost of the two structures was listed as $1.4M (million); with B Wing’s portion listed as $728, 484 of the cost.  These costs did not include the two portables already on-site and or the two in process of being constructed.

RHS was originally built in 1964, modernized in 2003; the addition was completed in 2012.  These projects were completed prior to LWSD’s move to 4-year high schools and 3 year middle schools, with K-5 elementary schools.

Doing the math using the above numbers and rounding for ease and inflation, if one portable with two classrooms can be built for a cost of $400,000; but one building with 14 classrooms can be built for $1M, then the District could spend $16M and have buildings adequate for 224 classrooms.  That’s capacity for 6,720 students district wide.

If the district used the same $16M to build portables, they would have only 40 portables and 80 classrooms; providing capacity for 2,400 students.

Again, I’m using numbers for ease and they may not necessarily reflect actual current funds necessary to complete the structures; but it’s pretty close. I’m sticking with the $16M figure as the District has approximately that amount leftover from the last bond issue that was approved.  There is likely less than that now as they’ve continued to add portables to “needy” schools, but again, the numbers are for ease and reference.

In my post of November 27, 2013 I referenced the Bond that was up for vote in February of 2014.  In that Bond request, the District was asking for approval of $755M which would have funded three new elementary schools, one middle school, and international school and a STEM school as well as additions to Lake Washington High School (modernized in 2011) and Eastlake High School.  The funds would have also been used to ‘modernize’ Juanita High School, Kamiakin and Evergreen Middle Schools and Kirk, Rockwell and Mead Elementary schools.

This bond was denied by the voters of the District.  The District rewrote the bond issue and in April, 2014 asked for $404M by vote.  This Bond request would have funded 3 new elementary schools (two in Redmond and one in Kirkland); 1 new middle school in Redmond, re-build and expansion of Juanita High School in Kirkland, a STEM focused high school on the Juanita High School campus in Kirkland, and an addition at Lake Washington High School in Kirkland.

I also covered funding sources for LWSD in my March 30, 2014 post; Bonds, impact fees, state construction assistance.

Per the LWSD article from the website (referenced in the post), impact fees are collected for each new single family house built and for each unit in a multi-family building.

$6,302 is collected for every NEW single family home and $207 is collected for every unit in a multi-family building.  And, per the article, “Most of the money the district has received from impact fees has been used for portables. Space is needed before new schools can be constructed and portable classrooms can provide that space in the meantime.”

I also referenced a piece by local resident Susan Wilkins regarding the District’s lack of planning and forethought when modernizing elementary schools (although the numbers could easily represent middle and high school projects as well).

In my post of April 11, 2014, I listed the bonds requested in the past 15 years through the district.  I received information for the years of 2006-2014 bond requests, along with details and whether they were approved or rejected.

In my post of April 18, I’ve listed the bonds since 1998 along with the years of proposed bond requests.  I also list enrollment and building counts from annual reports 2002 through 2012.

The posts referenced above are found on my old blog under “Local Politics”.

Paige Norman


Girl’z got skillz


This morning my grandson locked us all out of the bathroom.  Not WHILE he was in the bathroom mind you, but afterwards.  He used the training potty in the bathroom — with the door WIDE OPEN, then locked the door and shut it after he was done.  Because boys.

I was going to blow my nose (great, now I have the cold that my son had over the Christmas holiday) but the door was locked.  Yes, I use toilet paper instead of kleenex because Kleenex never seems to last long in our house but we’re RARELY out of toilet paper.

We used to have a skeleton key hanging inside the old cupboard doors before we remodeled the kitchen.  And now it’s in some box somewhere.  Great.  That’s helpful.

So I tried an allen wrench.  Too big.  Okay, now a paper clip.  I’m not a criminal, never had to pick a lock or hot-wire a car or break in (or out of anything).  I unfold the clip, stick it in the doorknob “key” hole, wiggle it around; nothing.  Repeat that a couple of times.  Still nothing.  Considered taking the doorknob off the set with a screwdriver.  Nah, too hard.

Plan C.  Go next door to my neighbors and ask Grampa Jim to help a girl out.  He digs for his magic tool (more on that later) and by the time I get back home, my granddaughter has opened the lock. Using a paperclip.  Because apparently it happens at her house all the time and she’s learned how to open it.

“It’s easy!” she says.  “You just stick it in, wiggle it around until you feel the hole and then jab it in.”  Well, yeah.  Glad she’s got it covered.

Neighbor comes over and it’s already opened.  His magic tool was a finish nail (which for the record was too big).  But we all gave granddaughter high fives and warned her away from a life of crime and went on our way.

All before the 2nd cup of coffee and 8:30 AM.

Dear granddaughter; please only use your powers for good.