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Mead and Central Valley school districts seek bonds to keep up with growth

UPDATED: Sat., Jan. 13, 2018, 9:43 p.m.

 (Cheri Kaatz)

Voters are being asked to approve construction bonds that would create a new high school in the Central Valley School District and provide more classrooms to keep up with growth north of Spokane in Mead.

Ballots for the Feb. 13 special election, which require 60 percent of voters to pass construction bonds, will go out later this month.

Taxpayers approved bonds in 2015 for both the Mead and Central Valley school districts, but population demands have created even more need, school officials said.

Despite the successful bond approvals three years ago, the tax-conscious Spokane Home Builders Association has endorsed both bond requests, Arthur Whitten, the group’s government affairs director, recently wrote.

“It is imperative for our community to vote yes on schools this February to continue public investment into new school construction to meet future capacity while adequately funding the programs that prepare our students for the careers available in our region,” Whitten said.

The homebuilders’ endorsement was further proof of what school officials already knew, said Mead Superintendent Tom Rockefeller.

“People come from all over the country to locate here,” Rockefeller said. “The No. 1 factor why people move out this way is to be near the schools.”

Five Mile Prairie

Mead is asking voters to approve $114 million worth of construction bonds. That money would add a middle school on Five Mile Prairie and an elementary school at a site still under negotiation. Rockefeller said it would be built somewhere along the U.S. Highway 395 corridor.

“The district owns 68 acres up on Five Mile Prairie,” he said. “We’ll put a middle school there and the land is also there for a future elementary school if we need it.”

Last year alone, the district added 458 students, and projections call for another 400 next year.

“By 2025, we are supposed to grow by about 3,000 more kids” to add to the 10,500 students already in the district, he said.

Three years ago, voters approved the first bond for Mead since 1998. Rockefeller said he’s confident that voters understand growth is fueling the need for the next bond.

For years, the district had a population growth of 1 to 1.5 percent, he said.

“It’s now jumping up to 3 percent. The schools are filling up,” Rockefeller said. “That doubles your efforts to keep up with facilities.”

The new bond would add about 65 classrooms, which should be enough to house up to 1,300 students, he said.

“There seems to be a positive mood about what we are doing,” Rockefeller said. “We are very proud about the support we have received from the community and we hope it continues.”

New high school

Three years after voters in the Central Valley School District approved a $121.9 million bond, school officials are back again to ask voters to approve a new $129.9 million bond that would build a high school at 16th Avenue and Henry Road in the Saltese area.

The bond also would build a middle school at Telido Station, just northeast of the HUB Sports Center in Liberty Lake.

District spokeswoman Marla Nunberg said the district purchased the site for the new high school in 1980, but discussions for adding another high school have gone on for years before that.

“It has been something in the making for 40 years,” she said. “We’ve heard from our constituents that they didn’t want a high school over capacity, but they also didn’t want to raise the tax rate.”

By waiting until 2018, the district was able to replace some existing bonds that are expiring. That will allow them to take on the new construction bond without increasing taxes, Deputy Superintendent Jay Rowell said.

“Our community does support our schools, but they also wanted to do this without raising the tax rate,” Rowell said. “We did that in the 2015 bond and we are ready to do it again in 2018 … which is very important.”

The new bond would pay for the high school and middle school. It also would pay to renovate Horizon Middle School and upgrade the heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems in the Broadway, Progress and University elementary schools and at Summit School.

Just like Mead, the Central Valley district is growing. The district added 300 students this past year, which is enough to fill half a school.

“Our projections for 2021 call for 4,492 students, which would be 1,292 over capacity,” Rowell said. “When you are over capacity in your schools, education suffers.”

Nunberg noted the district secured a state grant for class-size reduction. Those extra funds allowed the district to build two more schools than it promised with the 2015 bond.

“We are hopeful that in the trust we built that voters will have faith in us to do it again,” she said.