Education

‘We are moving fast.’ Districts get jump start on voter-approved school construction

School districts are wasting no time getting started on the bond projects voters approved in the February special election.

Bethel, Peninsula and Yelm school districts have outlined their planning and construction calendars for 2019.

Officials at all three districts stressed action prior to the passage of the bonds as schools face overcrowding and the need for critical building repairs.

Here’s when the new schools are expected to open:

Bethel School District

In 2019, most of the action for Bethel is behind the scenes as the district works on planning and permitting for the projects approved in the $443 million bond.

The bond funds construction of two new elementary schools, one new high school and expansions to various other schools.

The bond will cost taxpayers $1.42 per $1,000 of assessed value. It will mature in 21 years.

Planning has already begun for elementary No. 18, which will be built along Waller Road and costs $48.5 million. The school is expected to be completed in time for the 2021-22 school year.

Construction for elementary school No. 19 won’t begin until 2025 with a completion date of 2027. The district will acquire land for the school this year, costing $6 million.

Planning and permitting also will start in 2019 for high school No. 4, or the new Bethel High School. Construction will start in 2021. The project costs $183 million and is slated to completed by the 2023-24 school year.

The school will be built 2.5 miles down the road from the current Bethel High School and house 1,800 students.

Starting in 2023, the old Bethel High School at 22215 38th Ave. E. in Spanaway will be used as a swing school for students and staff from Cedarcrest Middle, Evergreen Elementary and Naches Trail Elementary schools while those sites undergo expansion and modernization. Making BHS a swing school is expected to save millions by increasing the amount of time construction crews can work on site, according to the district.

Expected completion dates:

Naches Trail Elementary: 2024

Evergreen Elementary: 2025

Cedarcrest Middle School: 2026

Also funded by the bond were construction projects to Challenger High School and Graham-Kapowsin High School.

About $41 million is dedicated to expanding Challenger High School with new classrooms and common areas for students and staff. Phase 1 of the expansion was funded by general fund money and will begin housing students in 2020, while Phase 2 is funded by the bond and is expected to open for the 2022-23 school year.

A new wing will be built at Graham-Kapowsin High School, costing $35 million. Expected completion date is 2023-24.

Bethel serves about 20,000 students in Pierce County.

Peninsula School District

Construction dates aren’t as staggered for students attending Peninsula School District.

Currently, the plan is to have all four elementary projects approved in the $198 million bond completed by the 2021-22 school year.

“We are moving fast,” Peninsula superintendent Art Jarvis told The News Tribune.

The bond will cost taxpayers $.79 per $1,000 of assessed value. It will mature in 20 years.

With planning and permitting already beginning, Peninsula families can expect to see movement on elementary school No. 10 first.

The school will open in fall 2019 as a K-3 school at 8502 Skansie Ave., the current site of the Boys and Girls Club of South Puget Sound, which the district purchased in January.

The district came under fire last week as people spoke out about a proposal to make the new elementary a choice school. Parents and educators felt the district was veering from the bond’s priority to tackle crowding.

Before the purchase, the district planned to use a site it already owned, known as the Bujacich site. The site posed challenges with permitting, being outside of the county’s urban growth area.

Now, the district will continue to lease the land to PenMet Parks. It can be used in the future if needed, Jarvis said.

Elementary No. 10 will transform into a K-5 school after an addition is constructed to expand the site with more classrooms. The school will be fully operational by the 2021-22 school year.

The district will hire about a dozen staff members for the school this spring, Jarvis said. Hiring information is on the district website, psd401.net.

Elementary No. 9 will be built on the Harbor Hills North site, currently owned by the school district. That school also will be completed in 2021.

The replacement of Artondale Elementary, 6219 40th St. NW, and Evergreen Elementary, 1820 Key Peninsula Highway SW, are also slated to be completed in 2021.

Yelm Community Schools

Pierce and Thurston County voters approved Yelm’s $99 million bond for added school security and replacements of Yelm Middle School and Southworth Elementary School.

The district is currently working on planning and designs and will continue that work through 2019.

The replacement of Yelm Middle School at 402 W Yelm Ave. is first on the docket, with construction starting in May 2020. Anticipated completion is July 2021.

Construction will start on Southworth Elementary School in June 2021, with a completion date of July 2022.

The bond will mature in 21 years. Due to local levy rates being reduced by an estimated $2.19 per $1,000 assessed value in 2019, the district expects tax rates to decline.

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