$5 million for MP cafeteria in House Democrats’ budget

OLYMPIA — The state would provide $5 million to build a new cafeteria at Marysville Pilchuck High School under a plan released Friday by House Democrats.

The money is in the capital budget proposed by majority Democrats and is intended to shoulder much of the financial weight of replacing the site where a deadly shooting occurred in October.

The allocation is not a certainty — there remain weeks of give and take between House Democrats and Senate Republicans before a final budget is passed — but the outlay is a relatively small amount and seems to have broad support.

Rep. Hans Dunshee, D-Snohomish, who as chairman of the House Capital Budget Committee wrote the spending plan, said he told district leaders that lawmakers stood ready to help out in any way they could.

“We’ve been real quiet about it,” Dunshee said. “We wanted to help but we did not want to inject ourselves into their healing process. We understand you can’t send kids back into that place.”

Everett’s two Democratic state representatives, June Robinson and Mike Sells, also sought inclusion of the money.

“We are very thankful for the efforts of Representative Dunshee for reaching out to us in our time of need,” Superintendent Becky Berg said in an email. “For this, and the fact that there is a line item in the budget for the MPHS cafeteria, we are very grateful.”

The Marysville School Board decided earlier this month that the facility would not reopen and agreed to pay for designing a new cafeteria. Decisions on size and location on campus have not been made.

It’s been shuttered since a freshman shot five friends sitting at a table eating their lunches. Four died. The shooter then turned the gun on himself.

District leaders conducted an online survey to find out what students, parents and the community thought should be done with the building.

They sketched out two scenarios: spend $5 million to reconstruct a 13,600-square-foot cafeteria in the same vicinity, or spend $10 million for a 16,000-square-foot facility elsewhere on campus. Of 1,900 responses, two-thirds favored the second scenario.

A hearing on the proposed capital budget is set for 8 a.m. Monday. The full House is expected to vote on the plan by the end of next week.

Meanwhile, the Republican-controlled Senate is drafting its own capital budget. Once that is passed, the two chambers, along with Gov. Jay Inslee, will negotiate a final agreement that the Legislature can consider.

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@heraldnet.com.

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