Cathcart Elementary School is one of six proposed to be replaced. (Snohomish School District)

Cathcart Elementary School is one of six proposed to be replaced. (Snohomish School District)

Snohomish schools to ask for $470 million bond in February

Most of the money would go toward replacing and renovating elementary schools.

SNOHOMISH — Voters in the Snohomish School District will get to weigh in on a $470 million capital bond proposal in February, the district’s board of directors decided last week.

If approved, the money would go toward replacing six elementary schools and renovating one, upgrading security equipment on every campus in the district and minimizing the number of portable classrooms.

The district last sought approval for bonds in 2004 and 2008, both of which passed.

A group of people with ties to Snohomish schools decided what would go in the bond, after about a year of planning. None of the citizens were employed by the district.

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

“We want to do four elementary schools together as soon as possible, once the voters say yes,” said Ralph Rohwer, the district’s executive director of operations.

In all, the district has 10 elementary schools. If renovations happen there would be nine. The Central Primary Center, which houses kindergarten through second grade, would be combined with Emerson, which houses third to sixth grades.

Central would be renovated and turned into an early learning center.

Totem Falls is the final school to be replaced.

The aging buildings, all of which opened prior to 1990, don’t meet current standards and don’t have enough space for the number of students in the district today.

Most of the schools would be built on the same sites, while children continue going to class in the existing buildings. Others would need to relocate while the new schools are rebuilt.

Security enhancements are also included in the bond. Those would begin right away if approved, Rohwer said.

Schools not scheduled for renovations would receive upgraded technology, such as communication systems and video surveillance. Those smaller jobs would likely be finished while school is out, over the course of multiple summer breaks.

“The new buildings will get those safety and security measures built into the construction,” Rohwer said.

That includes fewer points of entry. Reducing the number of portable classrooms could help. Those buildings are used at every elementary school in the district, Superintendent Kent Kultgen said.

“Some have quite a few, which doesn’t benefit an educational environment,” he said. “They’re a good thing to have when you need them to handle a bubble of population, but they shouldn’t be a long-term fix.”

Most of the proposal is focused on elementary schools, but two high schools will see some upgrades as well.

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.

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.

“We do know it’s a big ask,” Kultgen said. “The need is there, so strong that we can’t wait 10 years for some current bonds to drop off.”

Rohwer agreed.

“As you defer things it just costs more, if construction escalation continues at this rate,” he said.

Leading up to the Feb. 11 election, the district plans to reach out to voters and answer any questions they may have about the bond.

About 9,800 students attend schools in the Snohomish district.

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

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