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Ten of Federal Way’s newest schools meet state standards, report notes

The newly rebuilt Valhalla Elementary opened its doors in September 2009. Valhalla, along with nine other state-funded school buildings that were recently reviewed, met state standards.  - Courtesy of Karen Kiest, Landscape Architects
The newly rebuilt Valhalla Elementary opened its doors in September 2009. Valhalla, along with nine other state-funded school buildings that were recently reviewed, met state standards.
— image credit: Courtesy of Karen Kiest, Landscape Architects

Ten of the Federal Way Public Schools newest schools have met or exceeded state standards, according to the first report on the district’s Asset Preservation Program that the board of directors heard during its March 25 meeting.

The program is one the district adopted in 2009 as part of a state effort for districts to have a good “inventory” of their buildings and infrastructure to continue to be eligible for state funding for school construction, according to Assistant Superintendent of Business Services Sally McLean.

“This annual submittal is now required for all districts in the state in order to retain our eligibility for school construction assistance, commonly known as state match,” McLean said.

The first round of building reviews looked at schools and facilities that were completed after 1993 and received that state match funding, McLean noted, meaning the district’s newest schools were reviewed first.

The schools that were reviewed were Rainier View, Green Gables, Meredith Hill, Saghalie, Enterprise, Todd Beamer, Truman, Valhalla, Panther Lake and Lakota. They were reviewed under five metrics that looked at exterior and interior conditions, the buildings mechanical systems, safety and building code compliance and handicapped access.

The scoring metric started out from 90-0 percent, although the state injected a 100 percent rating while the district was busy with the process, McLean noted.

According to data McLean presented, the schools reviewed mostly were at or above the state’s “expected” score, which was derived from the state’s expectations for a building condition contingent upon its age. McLean said the next steps will include a review of all the buildings in the district.

“We are completing … an internal review of all of our buildings, not just the ones that have been built in the last 20 years that received state funding,” McLean said. “In addition to that, you might recall that you recently authorized, through a board motion, a building conditions assessment via an outside agency. We’ll have our own internal study and a third-party building evaluation, so we’ll have the opportunity to review how our review is doing.”

Board member Tony Moore wondered what this program was for, and what issues the district could face if there was something identified in a report, but not immediately rectified.

“These are the things that need to be fixed at these schools in order for us to continue to get state matched?” he asked McLean.

“What’s required is that we submit the building condition report,” McLean said. “What we want to do internally is develop a robust preventative maintenance system.”

McLean said this program is much like the State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction’s (OSPI) “report card” for schools, where it allows for districts to have an established benchmark to compare themselves going forward.

But she said there is a bit of a stick and carrot routine with the system.

“I think as with any public entity, we have an obligation to our taxpayers to wisely invest our tax dollars in these facilities and this is a level of accountability that has been introduced into the K-12 system, and the carrot attached to that level of accountability is state school construction assistance,” she said.

Moore also wondered if there was a concrete dollar amount attached to this process.

“To answer your question, if we did not do this system, if we did not go and look at our buildings to see if we’re maintaining them, we would lose funding,” said Cindy Wendland, director of Support Services. “If we didn’t do it, there’d be zero (funding).”

Wendland noted she and her personnel are continuing the inventory of the district’s buildings and will continue to compile and report their findings to the board as they move forward. Part of this process, she noted, is also to help the district develop a preventative maintenance system and schedule for the district’s facilities.

Board member Danny Peterson said he was “very pleased” to hear this report and see the work that’s been done.

“Since I’ve been on the board, this is an area that I think we could have done better at as a district,” he said. “What I see here tonight is excellence, and a desire to not just stop at these checklists, but a desire to see how do we make our schools better and how do we become aware of what it is we need to take care of (our schools.) I want to thank the district for being responsive to that.”

McLean closed by saying that while there are concerns at an individual level for buildings, as a whole, the district’s buildings are in good shape.

“The overall condition of our buildings is good,” she said. “I want to praise the work of our maintenance, custodial and groups staff. They’ve done that on a shoestring budget. We have added square footage to our district over the last 10 years, and have virtually added no staff. I was pleased with these results and the work we have done to preserve our taxpayer dollars and assets.”

 

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