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Federal Way High School students urge voters to say yes

A sign near South 320th Street in Federal Way that supports the capital projects levy for the November general election. - Andy Hobbs/Federal Way Mirror
A sign near South 320th Street in Federal Way that supports the capital projects levy for the November general election.
— image credit: Andy Hobbs/Federal Way Mirror

As the November election edges closer, those in support of the $60 million levy to rebuild Federal Way High School (FWHS) are making their case for that "yes" vote.

Three students from FWHS shared their thoughts on why their school needs to be rebuilt during the Sept. 11 meeting of the Federal Way School Board.

The first to speak was FWHS junior Emily Johnson, who said the high school is her home away from home, and is in desperate need of a remodel.

"I know we've heard a lot about Federal Way High School and the capital levy in the past few months, and I'm sure you've heard a lot about the damage that is at our school," Johnson said.

"I could tell you about how the ceiling leaks whenever it rains, and we have to put towels and garbage cans in the hallways to catch the water. There's mold on the ceilings and the walls of the classrooms from water damage. It's in terrible condition."

While she touched briefly on the decrepit state of the decades-old building high school, Johnson also highlighted the positives.

"I'd much rather tell you about all the amazing things that go on at Federal Way High School," she said. "We have an extremely dedicated staff that are there for us 24/7, whenever we need their help for anything. We have extremely involved students, (who are involved in) a range of different programs. We have a state award-winning choir, the Cambridge program, our ROTC, and are a national Avid demonstration school."

Johnson talked about the sense of family and community that exists within the high school's walls, and how that family and community deserve better than the aging building that now houses them.

"We deserve, and we need, a building that is conducive to a better learning environment, where the building is modern and safe and we can actually learn," she added.

Hailey Chesterfield, a junior, shared many of the same sentiments of Johnson. She said FWHS is also a second home for her, and a place where she feels accepted.

"I wake up at 4 a.m. every morning to catch three different Metro buses to get to school. I attend four clubs, GSA, French club, poetry club, and Operation Shoebox, which means I'm at the school from about 6:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.," Chesterfield said. "Federal Way High School is a second home to many students like myself. Our school is crumbling, and we need this levy to help it remain standing, tall and proud."

Fellow junior Katelyn Coburn added that she thinks the old building may be holding the students back.

"The building no longer represents all the great things we do as students, and in some ways, it's holding us back," she said. "Even though I won't benefit from the school being rebuilt, there are hundreds of other students who will. If the school isn't rebuilt soon, it may become too dangerous for us to go to school there anymore."

Public discussion

The community is invited to learn more and share their thoughts about the November capital levy.

A public forum hosted by the school district will run 6 to 8 p.m. Sept. 27 in the Federal Way High School Little Theater, 30611 16th Ave. S. (located at Pacific Highway South and South 304th Street). To learn more, visit www.fwps.org/info/levy.

About the levy

In the Nov. 6 general election, voters are being asked to approve a $60 million levy.

The money will help rebuild FWHS, improve playground equipment at Federal Way elementary schools, and help standardize the district's security camera systems.

In the Feb. 14 special election, Federal Way residents said no to the levy in a 55-45 percent split.

The remodeling of Federal Way High School is the district's top priority as far as construction projects. The district has already saved $50 million for the project, which has a total estimated cost of $110 million.

The district says this capital levy will be less costly to taxpayers because there will be no interest payments involved. The school district anticipates the tax rate for the capital levy would be 90 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value.

Leading up the November election, Federal Way Public Schools will hold forums and conversations with various sectors of the community.

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