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Public wants more communication on Federal Way school levy

Federal Way Public Schools (FWPS) held its first Focus Forum regarding a second attempt at getting voter approval for a $60 million capital levy that will rebuild Federal Way High School, renovate and update 19 playgrounds, and bring the district’s security camera systems up to par.

In front of a few dozen community members at the Federal Way High School (FWHS) cafeteria on April 18, school district officials shared a progress report and sought feedback as the November election approaches.

Superintendent Rob Neu reflected on what the district has learned since the capital levy failed in February.

“As you know, this particular levy failed in the February election. What we heard at that time is, primarily, is that we need to do a better job at getting community input. And that’s what we’re starting to do tonight,” Neu said.

“The second thing we heard is that the community wanted more information from us before they are asked to vote yes or no. So, our goal is to do that. To bring you information of what it is we’re proposing to do with this building, the playground equipment and security cameras.”

Neu shared his opinion on the need for the levy, and especially the need for FWHS to be rebuilt in some fashion.

“This building needs to be rebuilt. No question about it. Our kids deserve better. I think we, as a community, owe it to these kids at Federal Way High School to give them a facility that’s reflective of how beautiful they are,” he said.

Rod Leland, facility services director, outlined in more detail the school district’s plans for the playground renovations and security camera systems upgrade — an element of the levy that the district didn’t spend much time communicating about for the February election.

For the playgrounds, the district is looking to improve the “playpad” area under the playground equipment. Along with that, many of the playground structures themselves will be replaced if the levy is successful, Leland said. When asked by an audience member how much of the $60 million is going toward the playground improvements, Leland replied that it would be approximately $2 million, with an average cost of $100,000 for each playground.

Sally McLean, assistant superintendent of business services for the district, said the camera system upgrade would cost about $1 million. For FWPS, the biggest problem with many of the security cameras currently installed is that their image capability is poor. They are stationary cameras, meaning they can’t pan back and forth. The levy would bring the camera systems up to date, and allow for a greater ability to monitor campuses.

After that brief question and answer session, the school district representatives broke out into smaller discussion groups with community members. After about a half-hour of discussion, “report backs” were shared, with a few main themes dominating the conversations. Community members present wanted:

• Still more communication from the district

• More clarity and detail on costs for the projects

• More information about the impact on taxes the levy would bring to residents

• A recognition/preservation of the school’s history

• Ensuring that a new facility, if the levy is approved, will position students competitively moving into the future

The November election will mark the school district’s second attempt in 2012 to present the capital levy to voters. For more information on the levy, visit www.fwps.org.

 

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