Arlington’s Post Middle School at center of bond discussions

ARLINGTON — The school district here is seeking suggestions as a committee considers a tax measure for updating or replacing buildings.

Among the possible projects is a rebuild of Post Middle School, something that has been on the district’s to-do list for nearly a decade.

Since September, the 27-person committee has been meeting monthly, revisiting work it started several years ago with the drafting of a master facilities plan.

The Arlington School Board will make final decisions about how much money to ask for and when a bond might appear on the ballot. The committee previously recommended slotting the bond for 2020, when debt from building the high school should be paid off, said Brian Lewis, executive director of operations. That would allow tax rates to stay level as a new bond replaces the old.

Much of the focus is on Post Middle School, built 37 years ago. Since then, seven classrooms have been added, and no other renovations were done. The school doesn’t meet standards for fire or earthquake safety, and is not energy efficient, according to the district. The building lacks the types of spaces and technology needed for modern science, engineering, art and technology classes.

There are 572 students at Post, one of two schools in the district that serve 6th through 8th grade. Lewis expects space will be needed for more than 120 new students by 2025.

“Haller Middle School is full,” he said. “We’re going to be relying on Post to handle any growth that comes our way in the middle grades.”

Post Middle School is four buildings with exterior walkways, which the district says poses a security problem. The school, at 1220 E 5th St., also is near a hill considered by the state to be at risk for a landslide. There’s enough room on the property to rebuild farther from the slope, Lewis said.

In 2014, the cost estimate for a new Post Middle School was $56 million. Renovating likely would cost 75 percent to 80 percent of that, according to the district.

“We do have an urgency to replace Post,” Lewis said. “That project has been under discussion since 2008, prior to the economic collapse, and it took a back burner at that time.”

Updated cost estimates for the the middle school and other projects are being done, he said. The facilities committee has been working with McGranahan Architects. The firm is involved in multiple nearby projects, including the new Stanwood and Lakewood high schools.

Other items being considered as part of a bond in Arlington are: district-wide upgrades to security, including cameras, better classroom locks and building entryways; improved athletic and play fields; an overhaul of the district’s transportation center; and technology enhancements.

A survey is online. Among the questions are whether participants would be likely to vote in a special election, and what’s important to them. They can tell the district if they are more concerned about how much projects would cost, what specific upgrades would be done or how the district has maintained its buildings.

Planners also want to know whether people are interested in general improvements across buildings or targeted projects for specific schools and programs.

One page of the survey contains information about Post Middle School, including the building’s age and reported safety risks, in the form of “Did you know …” questions. It then asks if, given the information, the respondent would support a new middle school.

“We don’t want to push something that’s not ready,” Lewis said.

The survey is expected to remain open into mid-June and is online at the district’s website, asd.wednet.edu.

Kari Bray: 425-339-3439; kbray@heraldnet.com.

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