Vashon school board agrees to float 3 building options

The Vashon Island School Board, determined to assess how much voters will pay for new or improved school buildings, have put price tags on three different scenarios that could begin to address the district’s long-standing need to restore its aging facilities.

The proposals include a bare bones renovation of Vashon High School as well as safety and ventilation improvements to the two lower schools, a plan called Option A that would cost around $45 million.

A second plan, Option B, would entail renovating only a couple of the high school’s aging buildings, tearing down those that are in the worst shape and erecting a new structure for much-needed classroom and lab space, an approach that would cost about $55 million. It also includes safety and ventilation improvements to McMurray Middle School and Chautauqua Elementary School.

The third proposal, an enhancement to Option B, would throw into the mix what district officials call a few “stand-alone improvements” — such as upgrades to the high school’s athletic fields. It would pencil out at $58 million to $64 million.

At a sometimes lively meeting at the high school Monday night, school board members and district officials agreed to begin the process of taking the three options to voters to determine what they might be willing to support should a bond measure make it onto next February’s ballot

Superintendent Terry Lindquist, after the meeting, said he considered the board’s decision a significant step in the district’s efforts to rebuild its campus, particularly the high school, where conditions are especially bad.

“It’s the beginning of the campaign,” he said.

District officials and board members have been discussing a major fix to the district’s three schools for a few years, an effort that was derailed last year when the board decided to place the district’s superintendent on leave. When this latest board came together last fall — with three new members and two in the middle of their terms — they again dived into the thorny issue of how to convince voters who are feeling the squeeze of escalating property taxes that the district’s schools are in desperate need of repair.

At previous meetings, school officials pledged the costs would not exceed $70 million. On Monday night, before about 20 Islanders who occasionally offered up their opinion, an architect working as a consultant to the board unveiled three options with detailed cost analyses.

Another consultant, who works for a company that issues bonds for school districts, analyzed the tax implications of the three proposals. In all of them, according to charts presented at the meeting, the tax rate would be similar or only a little higher than what Vashon homeowners have been paying over the last few years to retire a capital levy and prior debt.

“We’ve never boiled it down to such specific options,” said board member Dan Chasan.

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