The Mead School District is doing more than just picking up the pieces following the rejection earlier this month of a $14.6 million supplemental levy.
There will be more budget cuts – roughly $4.5 million next year – down the road, but in the meantime the district is moving forward with plans to build a 10th elementary school on the Five Mile Prairie.
The idea was tabled at a board meeting on Nov. 6, the day after voters rejected the levy. However, following a presentation from the district’s boundary committee, the board voted to add another school.
To do otherwise would have meant a ripple effect that would have affected up to one-third of the district’s 4,300 elementary students, board president Carmen Green said Tuesday afternoon.
“What this does is position us to have enough room at our elementary level for 10 years,” Green said. “We’re in a position to be able to handle growth and not be behind it like we have been for years.”
“It also will allow kids to attend their neighborhood schools,” Green said.
Scheduled for completion by fall 2021, the new school will share a 67-acre site where Highland Middle School is being constructed.
Funding for the $20 million project comes from unexpected money through the state’s “unhoused students” funding formula.
Those funds are restricted to capital projects and can’t be used to cover day-to-day, general operating costs of the district.
However, the district must come up with approximately $650,000 per year to cover nonteacher costs, such as administrative staff, custodians, kitchen workers and maintenance and utilities.
“That’s not an insignificant amount of money, but we will be cutting $4.5 million as a result of the levy failure,” Green said.
That rebuff – the levy received only 44.4% approval – has led to some regrouping by the district.
“I don’t think we told our story very well (ahead of the election),” Green said. “That’s what we will be focusing on in the future – getting the facts out that will be understandable by the average person.”
To that end, Superintendent Shawn Woodward recently sent a survey to district staff, parents and guardians and senior students at Mead and Mt. Spokane high schools.
In the 2020-25 Mead District Strategic Plan Survey are several questions designed to gain public feedback on academic priorities, requirements for student success and challenges facing the district.
More than 1,000 responses already have been received, Green said.
And while it’s unclear when and if the district will seek another supplemental levy, Green said district staff is working “creatively” to examine areas to save money.
In that vein, the decision to go ahead with a 10th elementary school made long-term fiscal sense.
The decision to build another school was made easier by a two-part presentation from the boundary committee. Before the meeting, the committee studied the impact of a nine-school elementary configuration.
That would have moved more than 300 students off the Five Mile area, resulting in a ripple effect that would have moved about 1,400 elementary students districtwide.
Moreover, a delay would increase future construction costs, possibly forcing a need for more taxpayer-approved funds.
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