Puyallup Herald

Too many doors? Puyallup voters to be asked for millions to improve security at high schools

Concerns over security at district high schools have the Puyallup School Board considering asking voters to approve a multimillion-dollar construction bond, the second big financial ask in four years.

The new bond would pay to overhaul three of the district’s high schools and expand the fourth.

Tentative plans call for moving classrooms from portables and other small buildings into a single building on the campuses of Rogers, Puyallup, and Walker high schools. The proposal also would add new classrooms for science and athletic centers for Emerald Ridge.

School district officials said this week they do not have an estimated cost for the four projects. The board will hear a more detailed plan, including total square footage and construction costs, on June 17.

Board member Michael Keaton said members floated the idea of building a fifth high school, but redeveloping the district’s existing four high schools was a better, less expensive, longer-term solution.

“Combined with the safety and security, it makes more sense to modernize our high schools,” Keaton said Monday evening during a meeting at Glacier View Junior High School.

Money from an approved bond would overhaul and redesign three of the schools to include a single entrance for the high schools and upgrade security measures to include security cameras security cameras and emergency flashing light alarms.

Today, there are 67 doors allowing access to buildings on Puyallup High School’s 13-acre campus, and Rogers High School spans 40 acres with 64 entrances to buildings. Walker High has several portables surrounding the school, leaving students to walk in and out of the main building.

All those doors are difficult to monitor, creating security problems, school officials said.

The board commissioned a committee of parents, students and district staff two years ago to look into protecting high school students and staff. On a school board discussion board, school safety and security were top concerns among parents and teachers, district spokesman Brian Fox said.

The overhaul would add classrooms, athletic amenities and more spaces for student facilities like photography studios and science labs, Mario Casello, the district’s chief operations officer, told the board Monday. Other considerations, like upgrading parent drop-off lanes and roof replacements, were mentioned.

Members of the committee, Karen Mool and Brian Devereux, said each school was different and planning around the existing buildings was difficult.

“We had to figure out what safety and security meant for each high school,” Devereaux said.

In 2015, voters approved the school district’s $292.5 million bond measure to relieve elementary school crowding and reduce the need for portable classrooms. The bond also increased property taxes by about 2 cents per $1,000 of assessed value.