Dear Mercer Island school staff, parents, and patrons,
There are many important initiatives underway in the Mercer Island School District to promote the best educational experience for Mercer Island students. Here are several of our latest headlines and initiatives.
Construction of School Facilities
Each of the three facilities projects addressing overcrowding are on time and on budget. The Mercer Island High School addition is scheduled to open for the 2015-16 school year, while the middle school and new elementary school will be ready for the 2016-17 school year. The district will soon receive bids for construction of the new elementary school and the middle school expansion. That timing places the district ahead of nearly all of the similar school projects throughout the region, allowing the district to be in a position to secure better pricing and completion schedules.
By the end of February, a committee of parents and staff will present recommendations to me for new elementary school boundaries to determine elementary school placements for students beginning with the 2016-17 school year. The Boundary Committee has received a great amount of community input during this process, both online and at the public preview in December. On Feb. 4, 2015, the committee will hold a public hearing of its recommendation in the Islander Middle School library from 6:00 - 7:00 p.m.
World Languages in Elementary Schools
The district is studying the feasibility of adding a world language program to our elementary curriculum in the fall of 2016. Nationally, about 25 percent of all elementary schools have some form of world language instruction taught in elementary school. Research shows that early childhood is an optimal time to begin the study of a second language. Adding an elementary world language program is subject to finding adequate resources, including capable instructors certified to teach the target language to K-5 students.
High School Start-Time Committee
The Bellevue School District superintendent and I have charged a High School Start-Time Committee with conducting a collaborative feasibility study of the potential benefits and implications of changing high school start times to a later time. The membership of the committee includes parents and staff members from both school districts. The committee's work will include three phases that will result in recommendations to the Bellevue School District superintendent and I by the end of June 2015.
Diversity Advisory Committee
In the late spring of 2014, I launched the Diversity Advisory Committee, comprised of parent and community representatives who will advise me on matters of diversity and equity. In addition to periodic meetings, the committee toured several schools on Jan. 9 to view the school environment and speak to staff. The Diversity Advisory Committee is charged with reviewing the district's continued efforts to provide all students, irrespective of racial and ethnic differences, with access to the following: equity of educational opportunity; individual empowerment; and, equal and fair treatment.
Washington State Legislature
The 2015 session of the Washington State Legislature has begun. This year legislators and Governor Jay Inslee are tasked with creating a biennial budget, and responding to the demands for education funding by the Washington State Supreme Court, which has held legislators in contempt for not amply funding public education. I will be closely watching their efforts throughout the legislative session and look forward to an outcome that will amply fund our public schools.
Thank you all for your consistent and generous support of Mercer Island public schools. I look forward to seeing you at the Mercer Island Schools Foundation Breakfast of Champions on April 28.