Federal Way Public Schools proposed bond a good return on investment

  • Friday, August 25, 2017 4:53pm
  • Opinion

In 1971, Intel released the world’s first microprocessor; the first pocket-sized calculators were released; Mattel launched Malibu Barbie; Walt Disney World Theme Park opened in Florida; and the 26th Amendment, lowering the voting age to 18 years old, was ratified.

It was also the year Illahee Middle School was built.

At over 40 years old, Illahee is the “newest” of the schools set to be rebuilt, modernized or expanded if voters approve the $450 million 2017 Federal Way Public Schools bond in this November’s election. Mirror Lake Elementary is the oldest school included in the bond measure and was built in 1956, which was also the year IBM debuted the first computer with a hard drive, measuring about 16 square feet.

Other schools to undergo construction if the bond is approved:

Star Lake Elementary, built in 1958, the year the Lego Company patented and launched its modern Lego brick;

Olympic View, built in 1962, when the Space Needle in Seattle was completed in time for the World’s Fair;

Totem Middle School, built in 1963, the year civil rights activist Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech;

Lake Grove Elementary, built in 1965, when the Voting Rights Act, guaranteeing African-Americans the right to vote, became law;

Wildwood Elementary, built in 1967, when the Green Bay Packers defeated the Kansas City Chiefs in the first Super Bowl;

Thomas Jefferson High, built in 1968, when Boeing launched the first 747 “jumbo jet.”

If the bond passes, the district would also receive School Construction Assistance Program funds to relocate Mark Twain Elementary, built in 1968 — also the year Richard Nixon was first elected president.

Another key project included in the bond is renovating or rebuilding Memorial Stadium, built in the 1970s. It serves all high schools, elementary track and community events.

A major selling point voters should remember is that approving the November 2017 ballot would not increase the total tax collection.

Property owners are paying $2.05 per $1,000 of assessed valuation for the current Federal Way High School levy and school bonds. As the district pays off that debt, it will manage its bond sales in a way that allows the tax collection amount to stay the same. So, the average homeowner would continue paying $2.05 per $1,000. A person with a home valued at $250,000 would pay $512.40 a year.

The return on that investment would be significant.

These schools were not built for modern education, let alone hundreds of children using the facilities each school day. Maintenance to fix normal wear and tear only goes so far.

You can’t even argue the schools were built for modern technology when the year Mirror Lake was built, computers as we know them today were not even developed. Now, schools need computers in every classroom.

These facilities that were built in the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s were not designed to serve the number of students attending Federal Way schools today. The K-5 elementary schools were only built to accommodate 9,160 students, but are currently serving 10,263. That’s 1,103 over capacity, and with more houses and apartment complexes, student enrollment is projected to continue growing about 1 percent each year.

The schools weren’t built to accommodate that number of students or state-of-the-art technology. The schools are not the ideal settings we need to best teach students and help them reach their potential.

The school bond would pay for other needed improvements such as boilers and new roofs, which would result in energy savings in many cases.

Then there’s the security and safety additions: more security cameras at the schools and reducing the number of entry points into the schools to better track the people who enter or leave a building each day. In some cases, such as Lake Grove Elementary, some classrooms lead directly outside like at a motel.

Federal Way Public Schools has demonstrated the need for this school bond: overcrowding, dilapidated buildings, facilities that are out of date and not designed for current technology or educational needs. The district has come up with a plan that will in most cases not increase the property tax that residents are already paying. Voters should approve this school bond Nov. 7 because these needs will not go away on their own — and it may even cost more for the same projects to be completed if school bond passage is delayed for a year or two.

Star Lake Elementary was built the year America launched its first satellite, Explorer 1, into space. Let’s not make our students wait any longer before we invest in their futures.

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