Schools asking for public’s ideas to ease overcrowding

By Eric Stevick

Herald Writer

They are neighbors with the same concerns: How are they going to make room for the kids?

Over the next two weeks, the Monroe and Snohomish school districts will be seeking direction through public forums as they confront forecasts of increasing enrollments.

The Snohomish district expects enrollment to grow by at least 2 percent annually, roughly 180 students, over the next few years.

Monroe has added about 1,000 more students since 1996, including 180 additional students this fall. It expects enrollment to increase by roughly 160 students annually over the next few years, said Rosemary O’Neil, a school district spokewoman.

The Snohomish School District enters its public forums without a specific timeline or bond package to send to voters, said Neal Powell, schools superintendent.

"It’s really more wanting to have a discussion with the community and to listen and try to get input for the school board," Powell said. "We want to listen to whether the community wants us to go in a different direction."

Voters rejected a $14.5 million bond proposal last April that would have paid for land and planning for a second high school and an elementary school in the south end of the district. It also included $1.8 million for technology upgrades and $950,000 for a new alternative secondary school building.

The measure finished with a 55 percent yes vote but needed a 60 percent supermajority.

"We are really open," Powell said. "We are really doing the forums to get the dialogue going."

In the Monroe district, a series of community meetings will include informational displays where people can discuss long-range building plans, school construction designs and costs. They can also offer suggestions to school board members verbally or in writing.

"We know that residents are busy," said Sue Magruder, the Monroe School Board president. "These sessions are planned so folks do not have to drive far, have a variety of days to choose from and can stay as little or as long as they are able."

A staff committee examined two growth plans last spring, opting to recommend a two-phase proposal that would include bond proposals in 2002 and 2006.

In the first phase, the bond package would include building a new elementary school in west Monroe by 2004 while renovating Maltby Elementary and providing technology improvements. Under the plan, the district would change back to a kindergarten through fifth-grade elementary school configuration. For the past two years, the district has operated kindergarten through fourth-grade elementary schools

It was a cheaper alternative than a second proposal, which would have maintained the kindergarten through fourth-grade schools. The alternative would require building middle schools, which are more costly, O’Neil said.

Monroe voters could consider the bond issue as early as February.

You can call Herald Writer Eric Stevick at 425-339-3446

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