Nine Mile Falls constituents were invited to a Community Forum hosted by the School Board Directors and District Administrators. The topic was the recent Special Election and whether or not to run the High School Bond Proposal again in April. Students and staff were on hand to give tours of Lakeside High School to point out areas of concern and deficiencies in the building both before and after the official meeting, which convened at 6:00 p.m. on Thursday, February 26.
School Board Chairman Greg Flemming opened the meeting by thanking everyone in attendance for their interest and concern. He introduced Superintendent Brian Talbott who thanked the community for its overwhelming support of the Maintenance and Operation Levy. Its passing ensures that the current level of baseline educational elements, such as Technology, Transportation, and Curriculum/Books, can be continued. Levy dollars support about 24% of the District’s operating budget.
Mr. Talbott gave an overview on the history of how the District had arrived at the current plan for renovation and modernization of the high school. A committee comprised of staff, school board directors, parents, community members, and students met for over eight months to look at the current building and its needs. Three plans emerged: work with the current floor plan and renovate; renovate 40% of the current floor plan and build 60% new; tear the building down and build 100% new.
After much consideration, the committee recommended the middle option, renovate 40% of the current floor plan and build 60% new, to the School Board. This option was placed on the Special Elections Ballot in February. While the Levy passed with 65% yes, the Bond failed with 53%; bonds, which are for building/renovating facilities, need a Super Majority or 60% of the vote. Mr. Talbott explained that this equals about a two “yes” to one “no” ratio for a bond to pass.
Lakeside High School Principal Brent Osborn shared the basic deficiencies of the current building: The main office is removed from the main entrance, which presents major security and safety issues; the halls “zig zag” offering blocked line of sight; science rooms lack the basics-there is no lab; classrooms are oddly shaped and small for the number of students; no separate performing arts venue—the stage is in the cafeteria; and athletic facilities are inadequate.
Both Mr. Talbot and Mr. Osborn shared that they and the school board are committed to fiscal responsibility, good stewardship of public funds, and providing a functional, quality building for our students. The School Board Directors wanted guidance on whether or not to run the High School Bond Proposal in April. Special elections are held four times per year and the same proposal can only be run twice per calendar year. Key elements of improvement and modernization that this bond would fund if passed were then shared:
School Safety & Security
Reduced number of building entrances and access
Improved surveillance and supervision at building entries, corridors and parking areas
Separated bus and parent/student drop-off and parking
Security technology and access control
Enriched Teaching and Learning
Flexible and adaptable classrooms to accommodate multiple programs and student learning need
State of the art science classrooms
Flexible design to maximize facility use and cost-effectively accommodate change
Technology resources to be shared by students, teachers and the community
New performing arts and music areas
Improved student dining and commons
Main gymnasium – expand seating capacity and separate visitor seating
Auxiliary gymnasium addition
Athletic field improvements to support all athletics on site
Enhanced Community Assets
Multi-purpose center for community use
Zoned building for secure after-hours community use
Added space for extended learning & community programs
Activity and athletic field improvements for expanded use
Building System Upgrades
New integrated educational technology
Adaptable and expandable technology infrastructure
HVAC replacement and improvements
Electrical and lighting improvements
Plumbing and fixture upgrades
Improved systems to enhance operational efficiencies and energy savings
After this presentation the meeting was opened to the assembled constituents. Many voiced their support of the High School Bond and gave the Administrators and School Board Directors suggestions on how to improve communication and get the word to more voters. Mr. Talbott and Mr. Osborn encouraged people to invite their neighbors to tour the school so that they could see the building first hand. In addition, Comment Cards were available to everyone in attendance to ensure that the School Board gets as much input as possible before making a decision.
Chairman Flemming closed the meeting by stating that despite the buildings deficiencies, Lakeside High School provides an excellent education. Teachers want to come to the Nine Mile Falls School District because of its fine reputation. He reminded everyone that good communities build good school, and good schools build good communities.