LAKEWOOD — The Lakewood School District Board of Directors is expected to approve a resolution in early December authorizing a capital bond measure, which would go before the school district’s voters in February of 2014, so District Superintendent Dr. Dennis Haddock is taking the time to explain to the public why he sees the proposed renovations to Lakewood High School as being so essential.
“The first thing we want to emphasize is that this is about enhancing the safety and security of the Lakewood High School students and staff,” Haddock said. “One of the big design elements of this project would be to reduce the number of external entry points to the high school.”
Haddock believes the modernized high school facility would also afford the local community a resource that it currently lacks.
“With an expanded library and a number of collaborative learning environments within the school building, the high school could be available for the community’s use after the school day is done,” Haddock said. “Those spaces are designed to have multiple uses, which they could provide during the evening as well as the daytime, and aside from maybe the Stillaguamish Senior Center, we really don’t have anywhere else that’s local where community groups can gather. There’s no reason why the community shouldn’t capitalize upon that.”
Haddock acknowledged that voters are going to be budget-conscious in the midst of tight economic times, but he asserted that replacing the three current aging Lakewood High School buildings with a single newer building would yield significant cost savings in the long run.
“Reducing the number of buildings would result in less maintenance overall,” Haddock said. “And by updating the heating, air conditioning and all the other utilities, we’ll be spending less money repairing what’s old and broken, so that we can do more preventive maintenance and spend less money overall. I know people are sensitive about their tax rates, but this is more efficient and fiscally responsible.”
That being said, Haddock emphasized that the Lakewood School District has listened to the feedback it’s solicited from its voters over the course of the past several months on this issue, and has reined in some of its initial spending options.
“We could have added $4.2 million more to the bond’s price tag if we’d gone with the suggested renovations to our sports fields,” said Haddock, who pointed out the potential for $5.3 million in state assistance to fund an auxiliary gym, grandstand improvements and a new track and football/soccer field. “But we felt it was essential that we put a measure to the public that we could say was about the essentials. If we come in under budget, we might see about using those funds to that end, and of course we’ll be capitalizing on state assistance funds, but we’re asking for less than the total package that was originally proposed.”
Another slight trim that was made in the proposed Lakewood High School facility scaled back its maximum capacity from 950 students to 825, which reduced the bond by an additional $1.5 million.
“What it comes down to is that our kids really deserve a better learning environment,” Haddock said. “Because of the way our old high school building was built, a lot of its interior classrooms don’t even have any daylight. After 30 years of heavy use, it’s time for these students to be provided with a high school that has a reasonable amount of physical space and meets their realistic needs, especially if we want to keep up with our neighboring school districts.”
If approved, the high school building improvements would be “front-funded” with local dollars for construction to begin when geo-technical engineers determine the soils on site to be most stable.
The total bond of $66.8 million will include major improvements to not only the aforementioned safety, security and heating, but also the plumbing and electrical systems, as well as additional spaces for new educational programs, and to accommodate student enrollment growth and team learning areas. The site improvements on the surrounding campus would also address traffic and parking concerns.
The estimated 2015 tax rate increase over and above the tax rate currently being paid today by Lakewood School District voters, including all levies, is 51 cents per $1,000 assessed property value, which translates to approximately $10.67 per month for the owner of a $250,000 home, or $12.75 per month for the owner of a $300,000 home.
For more information, log onto the Lakewood School District website at www.lwsd.wednet.edu.