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Parents oppose library/cafeteria combo at new Lakota Middle School

Dave Bomgardner was volunteering at Lakota Middle School about two weeks ago, browsing over the plans for a new school building — when he noticed something that startled him.

The design for the new middle school has no designated library.

Lakota is one of five aging Federal Way schools to be rebuilt with a $149 million construction bond measure that voters passed last year.

When Bomgardner inquired about the missing library, he was informed that the building would include a multipurpose area that would serve as both the library and the cafeteria.

"We've invented something new," he said. "Now we have a librateria, which probably isn't going to be good for either."

Bomgardner, along with several other parents and students from Lakota, attended a school board meeting last week to voice their opposition to the plans. Federal Way School District Superintendent Tom Murphy suggested a community meeting to address the parents' concerns. That meeting will be held Thursday evening, Oct. 24, at Lakota.

The combined cafeteria and library will be a way for the district to save money, said Diane Turner, school district spokeswoman.

"They really had to come up with some creative ways," she said. "They have limited money."

Parents have been invited to get involved in the planning process for the new school all along, Turner said.

Rod Leland, director of facility services for the Federal Way School District, said he understands why parents are concerned.

"We don't have a traditional library and I understand why people would say 'Well, where is it?'" Leland said. "People want to know, 'What about the books?' It makes sense."

But there is no need to be concerned, Leland said. The building will have plenty of books, despite the lack of a traditional library. School staff will have the option of using the cafeteria as a library during non-lunch hours or dividing the library into three mini-libraries in locations throughout the campus. Staff could also opt to use the larger space as a library full time and serve lunch in smaller areas throughout the campus.

If the space is used as a combined cafeteria and library, half the books will be on permanent shelves and the other half will be on rolling shelves to be moved away during lunch. Library materials would not be available during lunch.

"Using one space for two purposes is very efficient given the cost of space," Leland said, adding that traditional cafeterias are wasted space during several hours of the day when no meals are served.

If voters would have approved an initial bond measure of nearly $300 million, traditional libraries may not have been an issue, Leland said. But voters said no, and only after several attempts approved a much scaled-down $149 million bond measure.

"We're building buildings for about 60 percent of what other districts in South Puget Sound are building them for, and all of them I think are building traditional libraries and we aren't. We've had to find more efficient ways to do things," he said.

New school buildings are designed with spaces that are multipurpose and can change uses through the years, Leland said. What is used as a cafeteria in 2009 may be needed for something entirely different in 2029, and district officials want to be prepared.

"Voters in Federal Way are certainly careful with their money and they expect us to build a really efficient building that will be as good in 25 years as it will in 2009," he said. "We want this building to be whatever it needs to be in the future."

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The Federal Way School District will host a meeting for parents and community members who would like to discuss the design of the new Lakota Middle School building at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 23 at Lakota, 1415 S.W. 315th St.

The Federal Way School Board will vote to approve the design at a regular meeting at 7 p.m. Oct. 28 in Federal Way City Hall Council Chambers, 33325 8th Ave. S.

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