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Students to gain breathing room

"In the next few years, Federal Way students will have a little more breathing room.Preliminary work to make that happen will begin in the coming months. The work will be paid for by an $83 million school bond passed last September.Ultimately, the bond will pay for construction of a new high school and middle school, rebuilding Truman High School and expanding the district's elementary schools as well as Federal Way, Decatur and Thomas Jefferson high schools. Bond money also will provide millions in school improvements such as parking lot safety upgrades, computer networks, playground upgrades, music equipment and emergency equipment procurement. The district sold $9.2 million worth of bonds in January, according to Sally McClean, business manager for Federal Way Public Schools. Officials will likely sell another chunk of bonds to investors this January and in years to come as well.Market conditions may not be ideal right now, McClean said. January is a nice time because many people have had bonds mature in December, so they have the liquid money in the market in January to invest again.The district could have sold the whole bond at once, but a transaction like that could have affected the tax rate. Instead, construction projects come with strict timelines and as money is needed, the bonds will be sold.The $83 million in bonds passed with 62.9 percent approval in the Sept. 14, 1999 election.The new high school, estimated to cost $44 million, was the bond's flagship. Set to open in September 2003, the school will feature a semi-circle design that wraps partly around an outdoor courtyard area. It also features two stories of classrooms, grouped into clusters. Large spaces for labs have been designed in for hands-on learning projects. A 400-meter cinder track and sports field, including football, soccer, baseball and softball fields, also is planned. The school will hold about 1,350 students.School board member Ann Murphy said she is pleased overall with the high school, but cautions against making it look too flashy.I like what's happening with it, she said, noting that the board has only seen preliminary exterior plans for the high school. The most important thing is that we come in on budget and not blow this out of proportion.Other projects covered by the bond will not begin for a few years. For example, Truman High School, the district's alternative high school, will be torn down and rebuilt at its current site. Construction won't begin until the end of 2002.A new middle school set to hold 800 sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders won't likely be seen until 2005.The bond money also will help the district add space to and reconfigure its schools. By 2003, all four high schools will have the traditional set-up of ninth through twelfth grade. Junior high schools will be sixth through eighth grades while elementary schools will have kindergarten through fifth grade.--------------------------The $83 million school bond breakdown* $44 million for the new high school, which has a 1,350 student capacity, covers 40 acres and includes a gymnasium, labs and a library. It will be located on South 360th and 16th Avenue South.* $17 million for a new middle school with an 800 student-capacity. It will be located on South 360th and 32nd Avenue South.* $6 million for replacement of Truman High School, which has a 300 student capacity. The school will remain on its current site at 28th Avenue South.* $9 million for expansion at elementary and high schools. Classroom space will be increased, and common area improvements and program enhancements will be made at the high schools.* $7 million in other school improvements will include:$3 million for parking lot safety$1.5 million for computer networks, information and library systems$.8 million for new classroom start-up$.7 million for elementary playgrounds$.6 million for high school sports fields$.2 million for music equipment$.2 million for emergency communications "

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