October 1, 2008

West Valley School District Eyes Bond Election

By Erin Snelgrove

Kristine Gordon dreads picking up her two daughters at Apple Valley Elementary School.

Every day, she's greeted by a line of cars trailing out from 88th Avenue onto Summitview Avenue and Tieton Drive. She parks across the street to avoid the congestion, but even then, she arrives 25 minutes early to get a good spot.

To her, the process is nerve-racking and time-consuming. When people don't follow the rules, she gets even more upset.

"It freaks me out," she said. "Some people don't get it or don't think the rules apply to them. ... It's stressful."

The lack of school parking is one of many reasons why the West Valley School District is seeking to pass a $28 million bond in March to replace Apple Valley and Summitview elementary schools.

The proposal calls for creating a new tax rate of $2.23 per $1,000 of assessed property value -- a 22-cent increase over the existing bond assessment. With it, owners of a $200,000 home would pay an additional $44 a year.

A 60 percent super-majority approval is needed for the 20-year bond to pass.

"We've run out of room," said Assistant Superintendent Tom Fleming about the grade schools. "We've gained 250 elementary students in the last three years."

The West Valley School District has six elementary schools, with a student population of 2,200. New housing developments in the community have contributed to the growth, Fleming said, filling the schools to capacity.

Through the bond, the oldest and smallest of these schools -- Apple Valley and Summitview -- would be replaced during the 2010- 2011 school year. They're now roughly 32,000-square-feet each and between 40 and 50 years old.

The new schools would be almost twice as large. They'd have increased access to computers and a closed-concept design so students wouldn't be walking in and out of the buildings during the day, Fleming said.

While construction is taking place, the Apple Valley and Summitview students would be bused to class at the newly remodeled Building 2 on the old high school campus.

In the future, the building will be converted into a ninth-grade campus. Seventh-graders will move up to the junior high and fifth- graders will move from the elementary schools to the current middle school -- all to accommodate the district's growth.

Chris Brown, chairman of West Valley Citizens for Better Schools, approves of the plan. Having three children in the West Valley School District, he knows the facilities are old and crowded, and he wants that to change.

In upcoming months, he plans on working with his fellow committee members to host informational meetings, distribute fliers and walk door to door to generate community support.

"We need to pass this bond because we need appropriate facilities for the kids," he said. "Our schools are full. When the kids end up in portables, and when we have too many kids in class, that affects the educational process. ... Two schools for 22 cents, that is quite a bargain."

Gordon agrees, saying the bond is a necessity.

"We're overcrowded. We're out of date," said Gordon, who attended Summitview as a child. "It was old and falling apart then."

The total cost of building two new elementary schools is $36 million. The district has about $8 million in state-matching funds from the new high school project to use for these schools.

The $52.3 million high school project was approved by voters in May 2006, after four similar attempts had failed. The passed bond resulted in a total tax rate of about $2.23 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, but it has since dropped to $2.01 because the number of taxpayers in the West Valley has increased.

Erin Snelgrove can be reached at 577-7684 or [email protected]



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