Q & A About 21st Century Facilities Planning

  • Questions and Answers about 21st Century Facilities Planning

    Get answers to the most commonly asked questions about the 21st Century Facilities planning process and post your question here.

    Why do we need to build new schools?

    MISD schools are overcrowded. Our current elementary and middle schools are 47 to 57 years old and are at the end of their lifespans. Long-term financial forecast favor rebuilding now – in a period of historic low construction costs – rather than making ongoing major repairs in the years ahead.Additional, new buildings tend to be approximately 30% more energy efficient and will save substantial operating costs in the future.There are 650 students housed in 20 year-old portables now, and we anticipate 800 additional students by 2023.

    How many Open Enrollment students do we have in our schools?

    There are approximately 142 open enrollment students in our schools today. Thirty-four of those students are children of staff members who are non-residents.* The breakdown for the remaining 108 students by school is as follows:

    • Island Park: 4.8% of the total student population of 561
    • Lakeridge: 1.0% of 579
    • West Mercer: 1.6% of 683
    • Islander Middle School: 2.4% of 1008
    • Mercer Island high school: 2.9% of 1380

    Open Enrollment has been closed to new families since 2008.

    * By Washington State law, staff members may enroll their children, at their discretion, at their district of employment and districts must accept them.

    Why don’t you add more portables?

    We have no more space on school properties that can be used for additional portables. Additional portables would need to be placed in the middle of our asphalted playground areas and would substantially impact student use for recess and other outdoor activities.

    I thought we just remodeled schools a few years ago. Why do they need to be rebuilt now?

    MISD schools were upgraded in the 1990’s, before the Nisqually Quake occurred in 200? Since then, building codes have changed and we have learned that there is a deep fault running under Mercer Island. Engineers say that in a significant quake, our students would be able to safely exit their school, but the buildings would be damaged beyond repair.

    How long are buildings supposed to last?

    Engineering studies show that most buildings are designed to last 30 years; when upgraded they will last another 20 years. All MISD schools, including the North Mercer Campus (e.g., Youth Theatre Northwest, Day Cares and Pre-Schools, etc.) were built between 1954 and 1965 and remodeled in the 1990’s except for the North Mercer Campus buildings. Our current elementary and middle schools are 47 to 57 years old and are at the end of their life spans. The North Mercer Buildings are nearing 50 years old without any modernization in five decades!

    Why can’t we remodel the schools again?

    Extensive remodels could extend the life of our schools by 10 or more years, but will not mitigate the need to rebuild them within the next 30 years. If we remodeled the buildings we would be required to bring the total facility up to current code. This is estimated to cost 70% to 80% of replacing the facility with a new school. The remodeled facility would have a very short useful life, 10 years as compared with 30 to 50 years for a new facility. In addition, our building infrastructures will not support two-story schools and would not be able to house the additional 800 students we are expecting by 2023.

    Why do we need two-story buildings?

    We need greater capacity to house 800 additional students we expect by 2023. The structure of existing buildings along with site limitations will not allow us to expand the schools outward. What about the high school? It looks brand new! The high school was built in 1957 and remodeled in 1998, which makes it the newest of all the schools. The building could last 30 more years and has enough capacity for the current student population. Therefore it is not of immediate concern, but is a key part of the planning for the 43.17 acre high school “mega-block.”

    What are the plans for the “mega-block”?

    The 50-year plan calls for building a new two-story high school west of the current school to accommodate student transition in 25-30 years. The existing high school will remain in place for students until the new one is built. There is a potential to save part of the current high school for administrative use and/or as an expanded community theatre.

    What about the other buildings on the “mega-block”?

    The long-range plan will likely require the relocation of the bus lot, administration building and Crest. The stadium is likely to either be relocated on the “mega-block” or substantially upgraded in its present location. North Mercer, which currently houses Youth Theatre Northwest, is the oldest of our buildings and was not remodeled in the 1990’s. The most recent engineering study indicates that this building should be removed in the near future for safety reasons.

    What will happen to Youth Theatre Northwest (YTN) and the other programs on the North Mercer campus?

    YTN and the other services provided are critical community assets. The 21st Century Planning Committee (21CFPC) recommends providing space for pre-schools and before-care/after-care services and envisions potential partnerships with current tenants to provide those services. They recommend the School Board consider YTN in future plans which may involve the addition of a theatre expansion at the high school.

    How will we stage the building of the new schools?

    We are committed to making the process as easy as possible on the students and will use existing schools as “swing” schools as new schools are being built, and/or build in place. For example IMS could be used as a “swing school” while the first new school is built on the IMS track. Likewise, Lakeridge could be built first with its old building used as a “swing school.” Most school districts today do not have the luxury of a swing school so building in place while school is in session has almost become the norm. All of our school sites have been assessed and little design compromise would be required with this approach. However, our schools will each have one noisy, complicated school year as their school is built. Probably some blend of swing and build in place might be the right approach for the School Board.

    When we will start building?

    The earliest that any school improvements might be completed would be 2014-2016.

    What will all of this cost and how will we pay for it?

    The cost is $196,275,000. The School Board has approved a single bond issue to be sold in increments over a 5 to 7 year period in order to maintain tax rates within promised tax rate goals. Existing bonds used for the 1990’s remodels will expire in 2015.

    What is the Tax Rate for 2012?

    Our local school district (Mercer Island School District) Tax Rate for 2012 will be $2.68 per thousand dollars of assessed value. This is a total consisting of the following:

    • Local M&O Levy $1.43
    • Capital Levy .56
    • Debt Service (Bonds) .68
    • Total Local Tax Rate $2.68

    The current debt (bonds) will be paid off in December of 2015. The board and 21st Century Facilities Committee worked together to structure future bond sales across a 5 to 7 year period in order to keep the future tax rate as low as possible and to produce a rate from year-to-year that is flat and dependable.

    How much will it cost me?

    The cost to a homeowner with an assessed property value of $1,000,000 will be an additional $700 per year. That equates to approximately $58 per month.