Central Valley School District Asks Voter Approval For Bond Issue, Levy
Voters in Spokane’s Central Valley School District have two big decisions to make by February 13. The district is asking for a ‘yes’ vote on a three-year levy to supplement its basic education funding from the state. It’s also asking for a ‘yes’ vote on a $130 million bond issue.
The bond would allow the district to create more room for a growing student population.
At the start of the current school year, the Central Valley School District celebrated the opening of four new or renovated elementary schools. It opened another grade school last month and expects one more elementary school to be finished this spring. All were financed by a bond issue approved by voters in 2015. That allowed the district to catch up with a growing enrollment in the earlier grades and replace old infrastructure.
With those projects mostly done, Superintendent Ben Small says the district is now asking voters for $130 million for a round of new projects. The tax rate will be the same as the previous bond.
“This bond will have three projects on it: a new comprehensive high school. It’ll have a new middle school. Those two projects really account for growth,” Small said.
The new high school would be the district’s third. Its site would be 16th and Henry. The building would add room for another 1,600 high school students. The new middle school, to be built in the Telido Station area in Liberty Lake, would add room for another 600 students.
The third project would renovate Horizon Middle School in the south Valley. It was built 37 years ago.
“The biggest issue that we have is the infrastructure: heating, HVAC, plumbing. All those things are behind the scenes. Electrical. Everything in the walls and buried,” Horizon Principal Jesse Hardt said.
The air conditioning doesn’t work. Sometimes the furnace is balky too and the school can be cold in the winter. The bond would allow the district to replace much of a worn-out physical plant.
Small and Hardt say Horizon was built at a time when the open classroom concept was the thing. Many rooms are separated only by sliding panels.
“So the intention, I think, in this design was again the notion of pods of teachers, especially at grade level,” Small said.
“Flexibility. You can open it up. Do some team teaching. Get your kids together,” Hardt said.
But, as you can tell, at least in this classroom, it’s loud. Next door is a room where the drama students meet. When they’re rehearsing a play, the students here say, it’s hard to concentrate on what they’re doing.
Horizon was built into a hillside. Many of its rooms, including this one, have no windows. Superintendent Ben Small says the plan for a renovated Horizon School would add windows wherever possible.
“What I’ve seen in our other buildings that have been remodeled is really an environment that enhances learning instead of one that detracts from it," Small said. "And so, when you walk into a classroom and kids can be comfortable in their environment, they’re ready to learn at a quicker pace.”
One other amenity for the students: bigger lockers.
“I don’t know if you’ve ever had kids in school, but these lockers are very small. Not really user friendly and they’re all pretty much the same size. Our sixth graders who are about this tall might have a cubby that’s up here that they can’t reach and use,” Hardt said.
Central Valley’s 2015 bond issue was approved after several years of failed ballot measures. So in that bond the district had plenty to catch up. It built about a dozen new and renovated schools.
Ben Small says all of the projects were finished on time and often they were under budget.
“When we passed this bond, we committed to doing certain things and we lived up to every one of those,” he said.
They’re even building two new schools with money they saved and used to leverage extra money from the state. They are North Pines Middle School and Riverbend Elementary School, both of which will open next fall.
“We feel that we’ve managed this money in a way that builds trust," Small said. "And I think that our taxpayers can now look at us and say there’s a track record of the Central Valley School District delivering on its promise and then some and more than that.”
By state law, the Central Valley bond issue needs a 60% affirmative vote to pass and also a certain number of votes to be validated. The district’s accompanying maintenance and operations levy needs only a majority vote.