Federal Way schools score $20 million in state grants for construction

Panther Lake Elementary School is one of the Federal Way schools under construction.

The state will provide school districts with state funding match grants for construction — and Federal Way is set to receive more than $20 million.

During the height of the budget conversations, there was concern in the district that state match funding, which the district had been counting on for some construction remodeling projects, might not come. However, the state superintendent’s office (OSPI) announced earlier this month that $150 million would be going to school districts in the state to help with construction projects.

Federal Way Public Schools will receive about $20.9 million.

When the district went out for a construction bond in 2007, it had planned on getting about $20 million from the state in match grants. That money was planned to go toward upgrades on 23 local schools as well as Federal Way Memorial Field.

With the budget shortfall, the Legislature discussed delaying the payouts as a money-saving move. However, the funds are coming.

The program has been around since the 1940s and provides funding for schools undergoing construction. The funding comes from the state’s capital budget.

Districts must apply for the funding, and the approval process takes about a year. The funds aren’t released until after the district has spent 100 percent of its budget. Funding based off the Panther Lake and Valhalla elementary school construction budgets will be released to the district sometime during this coming school year. Funds based off the Lakota Middle School construction budget won’t be seen until the following school year. But the good news is that the district has been approved for all of the funding.

Last summer, the district replaced the roof at Nautilus Elementary, the heating at six schools, the plumbing at Illahee Middle School, the lighting at two schools and the fields at Thomas Jefferson High School and Federal Way High School’s Memorial Field.

This year they are in phase two, and the money just released by the state will go toward projects including a new roof at four schools, new heating systems at four schools, improved structure at two schools, new plumbing at two schools, new lighting at five schools, new parking at two schools and new fields at seven schools.

The district proceeded cautiously due to uncertainty over whether the funding would actually come before now. The district focused mostly on energy saving improvements like heating and lighting, which also earned rebates from Puget Sound Energy that the district is already seeing.

“It’s not to say we are going to be really flush,” spokeswoman Deb Stenberg said. “But right now it’s good news.”

Bond facts

The $149 million bond will rebuild five aging schools: Lakota Middle School and Lakeland, Panther Lake, Sunnycrest and Valhalla elementary schools.

The district’s transportation center, central kitchen and maintenance facilities will be rebuilt and relocated to an area near Celebration Park.

The bond will trigger $20 million in matching funds from the state to provide improvements to 23 Federal Way schools built before 1990, with the exception of Federal Way High School. Renovations will include repairing items such as heating, roofs and plumbing.

The district plans to complete the projects by 2013.

For a full list of the upgrades, visit www.fwps.org/info/bond.

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