Puyallup: Sumner

Sumner School District officials hopeful $145 million bond will pass

For students at Sumner High School, their gym is so small that the entire school can’t come together for assemblies.

However, Sumner School District officials are hopeful that a February 2016 bond measure will help solve some of the district’s challenges when it comes to a quickly-growing student population.

With more students and families moving into the district as part of new housing developments and planned communities, the district is rallying support and understanding for voters to pass the estimated $145.6 million, 2016 Capital Projects Bond.

By 2023, the Sumner School District is estimated to see an estimated 18 percent (1,490 students) increase in students, according to district officials.

With that in mind, they are beginning to plan ahead for the influx of students.

“The growth won’t be at just one grade level,” said Steve Sjolund, the district’s Educational Support Services officer. “We will see a growth at the elementary schools, middle schools and at the high schools.”

Sjolund says a majority of the growth can be attributed to the new master planned community, Tehaleh, in the south end of the district. With growth in the valley as well, the bond will work on the needs for all areas of the district.

The district passed its last bond, a $114-million bond in 2007, which included seven large projects.

“We met all of those projects, and were able to touch all of the schools in the district except Emerald Hills Elementary,” said Chief Financial Officer Debbie Campbell.

While district officials are still gathering information to make sure voters understand the need for the 2016 bond, they say the upcoming bond will touch every region in the district with some sort of improvement.

If passed, Sumner High School would undergo a $57 million expansion and renovation.

According to the district’s website, a SHS improvement would include additional science classrooms by relocating the library, band and choir rooms. This would also include a commons and a cafeteria, something that the school does have, but is too small for the school’s needs.

Emerald Hills Elementary, the only building not improved in the 2007 bond package, would be replaced with a $28 million new building that would improve the technology infrastructure for staff and students.

A new elementary school that would serve the new master planned community, Tehaleh, and the quickly growing southeast end of the district would also be included in the 2016 bond package.

“The District intends to purchase property for this new building using current Capital Projects funds,” the school’s website said of the proposed new elementary. “New-in-lieu of money from the State as well as Impact Fees collected on new construction will help offset the cost of the new school to taxpayers.”

A $12.1 million improvement to Bonney Lake High School was also included in the bond proposal.

“If we spent the money to add another performing arts center (at Bonney Lake High School), it would add to the curriculum,” Campbell said.

Plans for construction of a $13.5 million Early Learning Center and a $15 million expansion to Mountain View Middle School are also included in the bond.

District-wide, the bond would include a $6 million upgrade to install turf and lighting at locations through out the district.

“The goal has always been to share Sunset Chevrolet stadium,” Campbell said. “But we’re growing out of that.”

It would also include $4 million for safety and security upgrades. The district is also expecting about $15 million in matching grants from the state as well.

The district has yet to announce how much per thousand the bond would be for taxpayers, but Campbell doesn’t anticipate it to be higher than $2.41 per thousand — what taxpayers paid in 2013.

“We’ve done a lot of really good work to be fiscally responsible,” Campbell said. “We’re mindful of the tax rate and the budget.”

District officials say the resolution for the bond needs to be approved in November to run on the ballot in February.

“Our goal is to do what we say we will with the money,” Campbell said.

The district recently sent out a survey to voters, to gauge which areas of the bond proposal need clarification. The survey link, available at http://www.sumnersd.org/arounddistrict/pages/BondSurvey.html, is open until Friday (Sept. 4).