The Peninsula School District Board of Directors unanimously voted March 22 to approve a budget extension of over $3 million to pay for four new portable classrooms for Minter Creek and Discovery elementary schools.
Peninsula School District Chief Financial Officer Karen Andersen presented the $3.4 million budget extension proposal to the board during its regular meeting March 8. Andersen said the money would cover purchasing two portables, each with two classrooms, for the schools. This would add four new classrooms to each school, which are facing overcrowding issues.
“For Minter Creek Elementary … the cost is going to be just a little over $1.56 million,” Andersen said. “Both of our campuses are maxed out, so if we want to put any portables on we have to do site work. So at Minter Creek we will have to put in an extra septic system and do some asphalt work.”
Andersen said it will cost $1.83 million for Discovery Elementary because a retaining wall will need to be built, land surveys will be performed and new asphalt will be poured.
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“The site work will take the hill directly behind Discovery, and taking it down. There is a lot more testing that we have to go through,” said Andersen, about adding the two portables.
Andersen said there have been no changes in revenue in the district’s budget, which mostly comes from the state and impact fees. She proposed using impact fees to extend the budget to purchase the needed portables.
“The majority of the projects will be covered with impact fees,” Andersen said. “City impact fees for Discovery and county impact fees for the Minter Creek project. We can’t use them 100 percent, the other fees come from the unassigned fund balance.”
During the public comment portion of the meeting, resident John Fry told the board he wanted them to deny the proposal and instead focus on building permanent infrastructure for classrooms.
“It's a waste of taxpayer dollars,” Fry said. “I encourage you, I know how hard it is to reject the administration and ask them to come back with something better. In the face of a huge ask, the $220-million bond, to now add temporary classrooms is inconceivable.”
During discussion, director Rand Wilhelmsen asked if the upcoming bond measure passes and classrooms are added to Minter Creek and Discovery elementary schools, will the portables still be in use or useful for the district. Andersen said the portables could be used during construction and could be kept for future needs.
Director David Olsen said he thinks the portables help an immediate need, whether the $220-million bond passes in April or not. Olsen said the past couple months, the board has had a hard time being accused of stealing and wasting money. He said he finds it unfair and the extension represents a symptom of the need for a bond.
"We have been out educating folks on how crowded we are,” Olsen said. “These portables are an immediate fix and they can be used in the future and moved around. People say we should build more buildings but we can't right now."
“We are spending $3 million for eight classrooms to add onto two schools,” Olsen continued. “Two classrooms (added onto one building) would cost $3 million. Every year on this board we talk about overcrowding and it's not getting better. We need to do this.”
The budget extension passed with a unanimous vote.
Middle school math changes
Secondary Instruction Administrator for Peninsula School District Chaya Venkatesh presented a resolution to the board for future action which recommends changing the math curriculum used at the district’s middle schools.
The recommended curriculum, Illustrative Math, has been piloted by some district teachers in their classes with some success. A survey of teachers show the curriculum has high engagement, is accessible to all students and has uniform assessments. A big change the students love is, instead of one big textbook, students receive workbooks for each unit, Venkatesh said. Instead of chapters and notebooks, students keep small workbooks they can write on, work in and refer back to.
“The kids get excited over having new colored books every unit,” Venkatesh said.
"Having a book to write in is nice instead of having an old textbook,” one student said on an anonymous survey.
The students also collaborate together which has made them more active in class, Venkatesh said, and Illustrative Math is the top-rated math curriculum according to EdReports.org, an educator-led, evidence-based review organization that reviews and recommended curriculum for students in kindergarten through 12th grade.
The cost for this curriculum is estimated at $71,550. The estimated cost includes $40,000 for student materials, $2,800 for teacher materials, $8,000 for pilot teachers, $20,000 for teachers who are new to the curriculum and $750 for leadership training. The estimated cost did not include the cost to purchase new materials, such as the usable workbooks, each year or any ongoing professional training for teachers.
No action was taken during the meeting. The resolution will be brought to the board for a vote in a future public meeting.