All of us support our schools. That is why it is very hard to come out against a school bond proposal. However, the reason we support schools is because we care about kids. The current bond proposal is not the best solution for our kids, for our property values or for our community.
Over 50 years of educational research (cited in frequent questions on www.no-mi-school-tear-down.com ) shows that elementary schools should be smaller than 500 students and are more cost-effective than their larger counterparts on a variety of measures. Our three existing elementary schools were originally built to that size (Lakeridge 425, Island Park 450, and West Mercer 475.) Indeed, the average elementary school in Washington State holds 440 students. Why then would we vote for a bond that provides schools that would hold 650-725 students? Why would we wait 8 years for the overcrowding of our schools to end, when we could build just one more elementary school and, thus, allow the three current schools to serve only the number of students for which they were built? The cost of operating a fourth elementary school has been grossly exaggerated. All three principals, at a school board meeting on January 22, said they would each need to add an assistant principal to manage the new mega-elementary schools. The cost of that staffing, plus extra custodial and other staff and bussing, balances out the administrative cost of a new school. Indeed, if we can’t afford to operate a new school, why does the bond call for buying property for a “sixth school?”
The proposed large schools will also not attract parents to buy property on the Island. Parents of young children look for a place where their children will be well known and feel at home. Large schools, by their very nature, do not create those feelings. The bond will particularly hurt property values on the north end of the Island because students from that area will not have a neighborhood school. Starting this fall, new children will be bussed from the north end of the Island to the south end at . Under the bond proposal, West Mercer would be the last school to be rebuilt and it would not accommodate more children than it does now. Meanwhile, more apartments and condos are being built in the town center, where more than 100 new children have already moved. It is time for the city and school district to work together and find a location for a north end school among the properties they own or through negotiations with private landowners.
The bond issue will also hurt our community because we will see Island Crest traffic increase with parents driving their kids from the north end to the south end. More than that, friction like what developed over PEAK will emerge. The school district gave the site of the old (on West Mercer between 28th and 30th) to PEAK, who then sold it for $6 million and built on district-owned property. Now the district is contracting $6 million for the property, which is too small for a school and located close to an existing south end school. The Superintendent was quoted in the Mercer Island Reporter as saying, “The purchase of the land is subject to a vote of the people.” Let’s just say no by voting against the bond and asking for a school on the north end.
We can do better for our kids, our community and our property values. Please read the letter entitled “A Better School Bond Solution” on www.mercerislandpatch.com , read the site www.no-mi-school-tear-down.com and vote “REJECT” on your ballot so that we can come together as a community and develop a better plan.
Thank you for reading this,
Carole Clarke, Mercer Island Homeowner