Dean of Students Ross Short watches several large groups of students performing and playing on the massive fields on the south side of Stanwood High School’s 63-acre campus. He said they would like to build the new school into the base of the hillside that rises just beyond where he is standing. (Dan Bates/ The Herald)

District to float $147.5M bond measure for new Stanwood High

STANWOOD — When the bell rings at Stanwood High School, about 1,200 students flood out of classrooms.

They hurry in groups or pairs, some hoofing it from what school employees call “Portable Village” on the south side of the sprawling 63-acre campus back to the main building or farther, to the track and stadium on the north side of 272nd St. NW.

Passing periods last seven minutes, compared to five minutes at most high schools, to make up for the distance.

There are 80 exterior doors and more outdoor walkways than indoor hallways. Students between classes use the walkways, cross streets and parking lots or maneuver among 14 beige portables. In the event of a lockdown, teachers must lock their doors from outside.

The high school was built in 1971. Access and safety have become bigger concerns over the past 45 years, Superintendent Jean Shumate said. The school also lacks storage space. Classrooms and labs aren’t set up for modern courses. The building has had a rash of plumbing and sewer problems. Last year, the sewers backed up nearly to the gymnasium before a wrestling match, and a broken water line out front almost canceled a basketball tournament.

A $147.5 million bond measure to pay for a new high school is set to go in front of voters Feb. 14.

A decade ago, voters rejected a $110.7 million bond. The district had outstanding capital obligations and people weren’t interested in paying higher taxes to take on more debt. Officials gathered that feedback after the 2006 bond measure fell about 4 percentage points short of the 60 percent needed to pass.

“We thought we had an old building then with a lot of issues,” Principal Christine Del Pozo said. “After 11 years, we have more issues.”

Administrators aim to win voter support by planning a bond around other school taxes so the total for property owners in the Stanwood-Camano district doesn’t increase.

Other capital bonds were paid off in 2013. Voters then passed a levy for repair, maintenance and technology upgrades at schools across the district. The levy is $1.37 per $1,000 assessed property value this year and is expected to be $1.31 per $1,000 in 2017. That’s about $328 on a $250,000 home. In 2018, the maintenance portion of the levy is set to drop off, leaving 13 cents per $1,000 for technology.

The bond would replace the maintenance levy, said Gary Platt, the district’s executive director of business services. The bond would be about $1.23 per $1,000 in 2018, adding up to nearly $308 on a $250,000 home.

Stanwood-Camano school taxes would stay steady at an estimated $3.52 per $1,000, or $880 on a $250,000 home, according to district documents. That total includes the remaining technology levy and a separate maintenance and operations levy.

A 45-person advisory committee looked at moving to another property or renovating the existing school but decided to recommend a new school on the existing campus, near the corner of Highway 532 and 72nd Avenue NW, Shumate said.

New athletic fields are included in the plans and the football stadium and track would get some upgrades, assistant principal and athletic director Tom Wilfong said.

If the bond passes, the goal is to open the school by fall of 2020. Portables could be relocated and the new school would go up while the existing building remained in use.

The high school is about 181,000 square feet inside and 225,000 square feet if exterior walkways are included, Platt said. The proposal is for a 241,000-square-foot building. Another building for alternative programs would be about 43,500 square feet.

The high school ASSIST program for students with special needs and the alternative high school are housed in a former elementary school. Some students are nearly tall enough to hit their heads passing through doorways and the sinks and counters are knee-high.

Stanwood isn’t expecting an increase in enrollment. The district hasn’t necessarily outgrown the school, Del Pozo said. The condition and security of the campus are the problems.

In the boys locker room, the smell of sewage wafts up from drains in the floor if the ventilation system isn’t working. Orange ribbons are tied to vents high on the wall so Wilfong can check each morning that air is circulating.

The sports medicine training lab is a remodeled closet. Electrical rooms have been repurposed for closet space. There are ants, Wilfong said, pointing out their trails on a recent tour of the school. And there’s mold.

The performing arts center regularly sells out its 540 seats and the choir room is crammed when all 45 students are in it, Del Pozo said.

At the start and end of the school day, buses, parents, pedestrians and student drivers converge, creating a dangerous mix, she said. The new school would better separate traffic.

Meetings are planned with local groups, including booster clubs and service organizations.

For more information, go online to www.stanwood.wednet.edu/bond-information.html or call 360-629-1222. Del Pozo and Wilfong invite people to set up a tour of the high school if they have more questions.

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

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