New school and grade level reconfiguration could ease crowding

  • Written by Briana Gerdeman

The Northshore School District plans to build a new high school in the northern end of the district to deal with overcrowding, Superintendent Larry Francois announced at a meeting between the school district and the Woodinville, Bothell, and Kenmore city councils on May 9.

The new high school is projected to open in fall 2017.

Along with reconfiguring grade levels and adjusting the boundaries that determine what geographic areas are served by which schools, building a new high school will help the Northshore School District deal with growth in the north Bothell and south Mill Creek area.

“Over time, Bothell High School will not be sufficient in size to accommodate the number of students that will be coming its way,” Francois said, noting that there are more than 3,300 housing units in development in the school district, which will mean more students.

The district purchased a site for the new school, the 61-acre Goemaere property that adjoins Fernwood Elementary, in spring 2012.

Francois estimated the school would cost around $120 million to build and $1.75 million in annual operating costs.

The district plans to pay for the new school with bonds and levies raised in the February 2014 election.

The district also wants to reconfigure grade levels.

Elementary schools would include kindergarten through fifth grade instead of kindergarten through sixth grade.
Junior high schools would include sixth grade through eighth grade instead of seventh through ninth grade.
High schools would include ninth grade through 12th grade instead of 10th grade through 12th grade.
“We’re one of the few districts left in the state that don’t have that particular configuration,” Francois said of the new configuration. “I think we still do a great job as a school district, but there are some sacrifices, or challenges, perhaps, that we have associated with that.”

In the existing grade level configuration, sixth graders in elementary schools miss out on daily science instruction in science classrooms from science specialists.

Nearly one-third of the district’s ninth graders are bussed to high schools on a daily basis for world language, advanced math, and career technology courses that aren’t practical for the district to offer in junior high schools.
And some ninth graders don’t view themselves as high schoolers and don’t realize their grades and coursework are affecting graduation and college admission.

The district would also design new boundaries for each school to create a service area for the new school and to adjust enrollment evenly across schools. It might also consolidate schools in the eastern part of the district with low enrollments, Francois said — a suggestion that Woodinville Mayor Bernie Talmas opposed.

“Our Leota Junior High is way overcrowded. You may be considering it the opposite way, but the kids are in trailers,” Talmas said. “Kids are entitled to be in a real school. I understand the need to have all this money go to the high school, but in your calculations I think you ought to consider the actual conditions the kids are going to school in.”

He pointed out that the Woodin Creek Village Development in downtown Woodinville would increase school enrollment even more.

Talmas also discussed the possibility of security cameras in Woodinville.

“One of the other issues our council is considering is installing video cameras on public streets and on city property for law enforcement purposes,” he said. “The issue has come up, but we haven’t really discussed it yet. I don’t know what the public feedback would be, what the reaction will be ... We’ve received quite a bit from the ACLU —  they sent us quite a bit of information, naturally opposed to it.”

The cameras would not be used for traffic citations or surveillance, but would be geared toward catching theft and other crimes and determining who’s at fault in an accident.

“It appears that if we do that, the recordings are public records, which would be subject to disclosure, which raises all kinds of privacy issues,” Talmas said. “Again, I don’t know how that’s going to be resolved.”
The Bothell and Kenmore mayors also shared news from their cities.

Bothell Mayor Mark Lamb said the city has been dealing with congestion issues around the intersection of State Route 527 and State Route 522. The realigned State Route 522 will be open by November.

Hundreds of new townhomes and apartments are in development in Bothell. A McMenamins brewpub and hotel will open in the Anderson School Building in summer 2014 and will include a hotel, restaurant, spa, brewery, cinema, pool, and live music venue.

Kenmore Mayor David Baker described how the city is trying to create business policies that will “allow small businesses to succeed.”

Over the past few years, Kenmore has streamlined its development code from several hundred pages to 30 or 40, and in January 2013, the city opened a business incubator that’s currently occupied by a startup.
Kenmore just passed a business registration program designed to provide the city with an information source and give business benefits in return, such as a business directory.

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