Tacoma district wants $535M. Proposed bond would replace schools, add security and fields

Tacoma district wants $535M. Proposed bond would replace schools, add security and fields

(Tacoma Public Schools)

TACOMA, Wash. — A $535 million bond proposed by Tacoma Public Schools would construct new fields, add security features and replace schools.

District staff presented the proposed capital improvements bond at a meeting Thursday.

“Today you get to get the first look at our (new) bond proposal,” Superintendent Carla Santorno said at the meeting. “It will show the priority of the next group of buildings that really need to be replaced and which of those schools just need to have some work done to help teachers and students be safe and comfortable.”

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The bond has not yet been approved by the board and is expected to change as more public input is given, district officials said. Next steps in the process include board study sessions and community engagement. The district aims to have a bond on the ballot in the February 2020 election.

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School bonds require 60 percent voter approval. The last bond by Tacoma Public Schools cost $500 million and was passed by voters in the 2013 February Special Election. Cost to the average homeowner was about $58.24 annually, or $4.85 per month.

The district has not yet done the calculation for what the 2020 bond would cost taxpayers, but said the rate would not change from what taxpayers are paying now, spokesman Dan Voelpel said.

School replacements make up for 60 percent of the proposed bond, costing roughly $321 million.

The bond proposes replacing the following schools:

  • Bryant Montessori
  • Downing Elementary
  • Fawcett Elementary
  • Hunt Elementary (Phase 2)
  • Lowell Elementary
  • Skyline Elementary
  • Whittier Elementary

Hunt Middle School and Downing and Skyline elementary schools will remain on the same site. The district is searching for “swing sites” for students to go during construction for the other schools.

The bond includes a historic modernization of Oakland High School on its site.

Safety improvements make up for 5 percent of the proposed bond, or $26.7 million.

The bond seeks to implement main entry/controlled access vestibules, security cameras, card readers for school staff and intercoms at schools district-wide.

All middle schools, high schools and newer elementary schools have security cameras, but many are outdated.

“So we’re trying to shift to up-to-date, higher-quality security and camera systems — and controlled access — of a standard model that’ll be easier to maintain,” Voelpel said.

Controlled entry vestibules would force all school visitors to the main office, alleviating safety concerns.

“If you’ve been to some of our campuses, you realize you can do that today. You can walk in through the front door and no one in the office can see you because of the layout of the building,” Morris Aldridge, director of planning and construction for the district said at Thursday’s meeting.

The district will be working with the city to look at Safe Routes to School as part of the safety component of the bond.

Upgrades to athletic courts and fields make up for 4 percent of the budget, costing $21.4 million.

The following schools would receive upgrades to its sports facilities as part of the bond package:

  • Lincoln High School — improvements to upper field, tennis courts, softball and baseball field, concessions, bleachers, bathrooms and railings
  • Mt. Tahoma High School — lighting, sound system and scoreboard upgrades
  • Wilson High School —sprinklers, two new tennis courts
  • Mason Middle School — track and field replacement
  • Browns Point Elementary — tennis courts
  • Stadium High School — new turf, replacement of press box, sound system and lighting, new baseball and softball fields as Peck Field
  • Giaudrone Middle School — track and field, artificial turf

Various schools would receive plumbing, mechanical, electrical, ADA, drainage, ventilation, ceiling and flooring improvements.

“Many of our schools have really good bones, but they need some work,” Santorno said.

The proposed bond allocated a significant amount of money toward small capital projects, totaling 20 percent of the budget, or $107 million. The district has upwards of $800 million dollars in deferred maintenance costs.

“That seems like a very large number, but it’s very common for districts to have deferred maintenance logs upwards in the billions,” said Chris Williams, chief operating officer for the district.