February 21, 2013 in Washington Voices

East Valley reassesses after latest loss at ballot box

By The Spokesman-Review
 

East Valley’s school board is juggling ideas for the district’s financial future, but members do not expect a bond redux anytime soon.

They have until March 8 to file for a slot on the April ballot, but board chairwoman Kerri Lunstroth said they’ll likely focus on education and the students instead of putting together another bond request.

Members of the board met for the first time last week since the vote and exchanged ideas.

One option Superintendent John Glenewinkel threw out: unwinding the preschool through eighth grade (PK-8) structure they installed about two years ago.

“I think people are scared and nervous and their world is being rocked, so it’s easy to blame somebody above you for the problems you have,” Glenewinkel said.

He said he gave principals and school staff a chance to transition back to the way things were, but they supported the plan unanimously at a meeting following Election Day. But soon, he told the board, people were coming to him expressing concerns about the program.

Students are leaving the district at the ninth grade because of the class structure, staff members told Glenewinkel. One option, he described, would bring back the middle school model and build a new one for about $108 million, based on architect estimates.

That change wouldn’t work for Principal Suzanne Savall, who said her seventh- and eighth-grade students are right where they need to be.

“I’ve known some of these seventh-graders since they were 3 years old,” Savall said. “I can look into their eyes and see that their parents got into a fight – they wish I didn’t know that.”

If they continue their course and the “naysayers are right,” Glenewinkel said, they run the risk of running the district into the ground.

There’s also a question among board members about whether the reconfiguration plan in 2011 was the driving force behind the rejection of a $33 million bond request that year, or if the community simply does not support any tax increase.

Instead of a districtwide bond, school board vice chairman Mitch Jensen suggested running a bond per school, but noted it could quickly turn into the haves and have-nots, if one school were to pass a bond and the others couldn’t.

Other ideas included contracting transportation services and removing routes from rural areas of the district which covers about 100 square miles in Spokane Valley, according to the district’s website, from Interstate 90 to northeast of Newman Lake.

They could also sell the administrative office, Glenewinkel said, an idea simmering on their minds for a while. They could move their preschool, kindergarten and administrative offices into Skyview Elementary School and move Continuous Curriculum School to East Valley Middle School.

Passing a bond is still a goal – one the district hasn’t achieved since 1996 – but the district is going to wait until it’s properly involved the community this time around. It could be another year or so before they attempt another bond, Glenewinkel said.


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