School upgrade: Renovate or raze?

By Brian Kelly

Herald Writer

ARLINGTON — There’s a mixed bag of opinion over whether the Arlington School District should build a new elementary school or renovate Presidents Elementary.

The district recently released results of a survey probing residents’ thoughts about how to improve the school. Approximately 420 people were polled, and although the survey did not offer a one-question choice between the two options, respondents were able to offer comments at the end about which approach would be best.

In a tally of those comments, 30 respondents were clearly in favor of a new building. But 36 said they wanted the existing school renovated, or were undecided about the choice.

Arlington voters approved a $54 million bond measure last year, which will pay for a new high school and another elementary school called Pioneer Elementary. The renovation of Presidents Elementary was also part of the package. The modernization of the school is expected to cost about $8 million.

Presidents Elementary, on N. French Avenue, is made up of three buildings and dates to the 1950s. Supporters of a new school say constructing a new facility will mean improved security for staff and students, as well as the chance to reroute the traffic flow to the school. It would also be faster to build a new school than renovate the existing one.

School officials began talking about building a new Presidents Elementary earlier this year. That would include tearing down both the Lincoln and Washington buildings at the site and constructing a one-building elementary school. The other option is renovating the existing campus.

The automated telephone poll, set up by the Arlington Public Schools Facilities Committee, was conducted between March 30 and April 9.

"I was surprised that there was such a high-percentage support for a new building," said Rob Pattermann, an assistant superintendent with the Arlington district.

Most of those who participated in the poll, about 57 percent, were parents of children currently enrolled in Arlington schools.

When asked if they supported renovating Presidents Elementary — which would mean students going to school at the current high school site for a year — parents overwhelmingly said no to the idea, 132-51. Overall, 61 percent of the respondents said they couldn’t support the renovation idea.

The survey also asked if people would support replacing Presidents Elementary with a new school if it meant that no new tax dollars would be needed for the project. Approximately 84 percent of the responses supported the new school with that provision.

The telephone poll posed seven questions, then gave respondents a chance to leave a message at the end of the call.

Some disputed that the new construction could occur without additional tax money, and others said the last election was less than honest. Others warned that the district could face legal challenges if it tried to replace Presidents Elementary with a new school because that’s not what was on the ballot that voters approved.

"You need to listen to what the people said. They said renovate," one message said. It echoed another comment that said if the district had enough money to build a new school, then homeowners should get a tax refund.

One respondent said the questions were "very biased and obviously pro brand-new school." And others said renovation of the existing school makes more sense because it would provide 15 percent more space than a new building. What’s more, the district would be eligible for state money in 20 years if it renovated, compared with 30 years if it built a new school.

Pattermann said the committee tried to keep the survey balanced.

"We tried extremely hard with the information and the questions to present a very balanced approach to this," Pattermann said. But he added that they also wanted to make it clear that the committee favors building a new school.

"We tried to be obvious in our communication to the community that the facilities committee supports a new (school) versus a renovated."

The facilities committee may hold some meetings in the future to gather additional input before the school board is asked to make a decision on the project, Pattermann said.

"Obviously, we need to get to the place where we’re making a formal recommendation to the board. Between now and then we want to have some community information sessions or forums to be able to talk about the differences between these two projects," he said.

You can call Herald Writer Brian Kelly at 425-339-3422 or send e-mail to

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

Ariel Garcia, 4, was last seen Wednesday morning in an apartment in the 4800 block of Vesper Dr. (Photo provided by Everett Police)
How to donate to the family of Ariel Garcia

Everett police believe the boy’s mother, Janet Garcia, stabbed him repeatedly and left his body in Pierce County.

A ribbon is cut during the Orange Line kick off event at the Lynnwood Transit Center on Saturday, March 30, 2024 in Lynnwood, Washington. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
‘A huge year for transit’: Swift Orange Line begins in Lynnwood

Elected officials, community members celebrate Snohomish County’s newest bus rapid transit line.

Bethany Teed, a certified peer counselor with Sunrise Services and experienced hairstylist, cuts the hair of Eli LeFevre during a resource fair at the Carnegie Resource Center on Wednesday, March 6, 2024, in downtown Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Carnegie center is a one-stop shop for housing, work, health — and hope

The resource center in downtown Everett connects people to more than 50 social service programs.

Everett mall renderings from Brixton Capital. (Photo provided by the City of Everett)
Topgolf at the Everett Mall? Mayor’s hint still unconfirmed

After Cassie Franklin’s annual address, rumors circled about what “top” entertainment tenant could be landing at Everett Mall.

Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Stanwood in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
Stanwood man gets federal prison for selling fentanyl on dark web

In 2013, Christerfer Frick was sentenced to nine years for trafficking drugs. He began selling online upon his release in 2020.

Molbak's Garden + Home in Woodinville, Washington closed on Jan. 28 2024. (Photo courtesy of Molbak's)
Molbak’s, former Woodinville garden store, hopes for a comeback

Molbak’s wants to create a “hub” for retailers and community groups at its former Woodinville store. But first it must raise $2.5 million.

A fire at a home near Alderwood Mall sent one neighbor and one firefighter to the hospital. (Photo provided by South County Fire)
Officials: Residents returned to burning Lynnwood home to rescue dogs

Five people and six dogs were displaced in the Thursday afternoon house fire, according to South County Fire.

Featuring a pink blush over a yellow background, WA 64 combines qualities of Honeycrisp and Cripps Pink (aka Pink Lady) for a firm, crisp, sweet and tart bite. A naming contest for the new apple runs through May 5, 2024. (Photo provided by Washington State University)
Hey Honeycrisp, this new breed of apple needs a name

Enter a naming contest for WA 64, a hybrid apple with the same baby daddy as Cosmic Crisp.

Police respond to a wrong way crash Thursday night on Highway 525 in Lynnwood after a police chase. (Photo provided by Washington State Department of Transportation)
Lynnwood woman, 83, killed in wrong-way crash following police pursuit

Deputies said they were chasing a man, 37, south on Highway 525 when he swerved into northbound lanes, killing an oncoming driver.

A memorial with small gifts surrounded a utility pole with a photograph of Ariel Garcia at the corner of Alpine Drive and Vesper Drive ion Wednesday, April 10, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Death of Everett boy, 4, spurs questions over lack of Amber Alert

Local police and court authorities were reluctant to address some key questions, when asked by a Daily Herald reporter this week.

People walk along the waterfront in front of South Fork Bakery at the Port of Everett on Thursday, April 11, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Port of Everett inks deal with longtime Bothell restaurant

The port will break ground on two new buildings this summer. Slated for completion next year, Alexa’s Cafe will open in one of them.

The new Amazon fulfillment center under construction along 172nd Street NE in Arlington, just south of Arlington Municipal Airport. (Chuck Taylor / The Herald) 20210708
Frito-Lay leases massive building at Marysville business park

The company will move next door to Tesla and occupy a 300,0000-square-foot building at the Marysville business park.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.