This summer will extend a little longer for nearly 1,000 elementary school students in Federal Way.
Students of Wildwood and Lake Grove elementary schools will tentatively begin the first day of school on Monday, Sept. 9 — four days later than scheduled, Federal Way Public Schools recently announced. The start of the new school year was pushed back for these students due to a permitting challenge with the city over widening the driveway to accommodate more traffic at the schools’ temporary site at the former DeVry Campus building.
The district purchased the building for $13 million in February with plans to house Wildwood, Lake Grove and eventually Star Lake elementary schools while the new schools are under construction during the 2019-20 school year.
The new campus will be home to approximately 400 students for Lake Grove Elementary and 550 for Wildwood Elementary once enrollment is completed, the district stated.
Due to the unfinished driveway at the school’s temporary campus, the start date for Lake Grove and Wildwood has been pushed back — and could be postponed further.
“We are pushing forward with the steps that still need to be taken to receive a certificate of occupancy,” said Whitney Chiang, director of multimedia communications for the district. “As of today, the delay is likely to be four days.”
The district has been “making every effort to open the building on time for the first day of school,” the press release sent on Thursday, Aug. 22 states. Parents of Wildwood and Lake Grove were notified of the delay in an email sent by each school’s principal on Tuesday, Aug. 20.
While the district’s construction partners are “on schedule to convert the former Devry building into a safe, appropriate temporary campus,” construction on the site’s driveway must be completed before the district can receive occupancy paperwork from the city of Federal Way. On the outside of the building, the entrance driveway needs to be widened to accommodate the increased traffic of school buses and staff vehicles to the site.
Construction of the driveway was delayed due to a permitting challenge with the city, though the district declined to specify the nature of the challenge.
FWPS Superintendent Dr. Tammy Campbell said this delay is “a complex issue” and that the district is using this experience to learn how to work with the city better and further understand the practical application of regulation in a way that aligns with building schools.
To ensure greater proficiency for future projects, Campbell said she has requested a meeting with Mayor Jim Ferrell to discuss how the city operates its permitting processes.
In order to open the building to the public, the district needs to obtain a certificate of occupancy, Chiang told the Mirror. She confirmed the campus’s driveway work is a city requirement.
As part of the city’s land-use permitting process, the district learned about the need to widen the driveway in March and submitted its plans to the city that same month, said Kassie Swenson, chief of communications for FWPS. The city responded to the district in May with their revisions to the guidelines that the district had submitted two months earlier.
“The district responded and has been working hard since that time to accelerate what’s required for the first day of school for Lake Grove and Wildwood Elementary schools,” Swenson noted.
Tyler Hemstreet, communications coordinator for Federal Way, also noted an issue with the permitting, but did not identify what that was. He stated in an email the city is “very proud of the collaboration on this project to this point. Everyone at the City has been working diligently with the school district to make sure the temporary campus opens as soon as work is complete — and all life-safety items must be complete before permitting students, teachers and parents into the building.”
Hemstreet said the city looks forward to a successful completion of the temporary campus project.
There is also a bit more work left to do inside the building, including the retrofitting work that is close to completion, Chiang said.
“There are a handful of finishes, as well as some ceiling tiles to be installed and light mechanical work to wrap up,” she explained. “There is also some work being done on the exterior entrances.”
Additional work includes the parent parking area, installation of storage sheds and fencing, as well as completing the outdoor play area.
The district’s long-term goal for the building, at 3600 S. 344th Way, is to make it a permanent K-3 early learning facility.
Federal Way Public Schools will provide another update to parents on Aug. 28 with the goal of providing a firmer start date.
As for the extra days of summer, the district said they are still figuring out ways to meet the state requirement amount of student instructional hours.
“As is standard practice, we will meet this requirement and make up any time necessary,” the district stated. “We are exploring the various options to make up any time.”
As for a backup plan, the district said Lake Grove and Wildwood elementary staff and scholars will move into the temporary campus as early in September as possible.
The first day of school for all other FWPS schools will be Tuesday, Sept. 3.