The Snohomish School District’s 2020 capital bond would replace several schools, including Cathcart Elementary. (Snohomish School District)

The Snohomish School District’s 2020 capital bond would replace several schools, including Cathcart Elementary. (Snohomish School District)

In Snohomish, $470 million bond would replace aging schools

District leaders hope to replace elementary schools, renovate high schools and improve security.

SNOHOMISH — Erica Farmer knew her children’s school was in need of renovations, but didn’t realize it was that way across the entire Snohomish School District.

Her kids, in third and fifth grades, attend Cascade View Elementary. That school, built about 40 years ago, is one of the oldest in the district.

Farmer graduated from Snohomish High School in 1994. She’s now part of a group called Citizens for Snohomish Schools, advocating to pass the district’s $470 million capital bond in Tuesday’s special election.

“I had a great education, and I want my kids to have the same kind of quality education I had,” she said.

She is among more than 38,000 voters in the Snohomish School District who are being asked to decide on the proposal. Roughly 9,800 students attend Snohomish schools.

If approved, the money would be used to replace six elementary schools and renovate one, upgrade two of the district’s high schools, improve security equipment on every campus in the district and minimize the number of portable classrooms.

The district’s last bond proposals were in 2004 and 2008. Both passed. Bonds require a 60 percent yes vote.

Farmer moved away from Snohomish when she went to college. She later got married, and the couple moved back when they decided to start a family.

“I’m not one who would normally vote yes for taxes,” she said. “But in this case I see it right in front of me. Those dollars are being spent to provide an education.”

She believes if voters wait any longer, the cost of construction will continue to rise and another proposal later would be more expensive.

If the bond is approved, it would cost homeowners 98 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value, or about $415 more in taxes each year on a home worth $425,000, the county average.

Homeowners are still paying for a previous bond that expires in 2029, Superintendent Kent Kultgen said.

A group of parents and others who live in the district served on the Citizens’ Facility Advisory Committee and spent about two years developing recommendations on what should be included in the bond.

“The committee really looked at it as quality education and equity for all our kids, and we just couldn’t wait until 2029,” Kultgen said.

The biggest projects would be to replace Cathcart, Cascade View, Dutch Hill, Emerson, Seattle Hill and Totem Falls elementary schools.

All those schools were built before 1990 with a 20- to 30-year lifespan. If they were replaced, the new buildings would be expected to last up to 75 years and use renewable resources, such as solar panels for electricity, Kultgen said.

In all, the district has 10 elementary schools. If renovations happen there would be nine. That’s because the Central Primary Center, kindergarten to second grade, would be combined with Emerson, third to sixth grade, to create one school.

Most would be built on the same sites and students would continue going to class in the existing buildings.

Schools not scheduled for renovations would receive upgraded technology, such as communication systems, video surveillance and other security enhancements.

That includes fewer points of entry. Reducing the number of portable classrooms could help. There are 51 such buildings in the district, with 43 at elementary schools.

Because they are separate from the main building, students have to walk around campus to reach the restroom and other parts of the school. Initially they were supposed to be temporary classrooms, but in many cases have been used for decades.

“It isn’t a safe situation for kids,” Kultgen said. “We also know the portables don’t offer a high standard of education — they’re isolated.”

If the proposal is approved, two high schools will also see upgrades.

Glacier Peak High School was built with money from the 2004 measure. With eight portable buildings, the school now needs more classroom space.

AIM High School, the alternative school, would be remodeled and receive new educational programs.

Ballots returned by mail must be postmarked by Tuesday, no stamp required. Residents can also cast their votes at a county drop box by 8 p.m. that night. One of those is near the Snohomish Library, at 311 Maple Ave.

Stephanie Davey: 425-339-3192; sdavey@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @stephrdavey.

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