$17 million bond sought

(posted 2.7.11)

At first glance, Cascade Middle School in Sedro-Woolley looks like a perfectly serviceable facility. The bell rings, the kids
learn, the buses come and take them home.

But look beneath the surface at the aging campus and you’ll find retrofitted wiring, water infiltration at the roof and exterior walls, buried pipes that need frequent repair, and a boiler whose days are numbered.

Sedro-Woolley School District officials hope to address these and other problems with a $17 million bond request. Ballots went out to Sedro-Woolley citizens Jan. 19, which must be returned or postmarked by Feb. 8.

Paired with $6 million from state coffers, the new bond replaces a $15 million, 1996 bond that expires December 2013 and actually cost residents more: $.92 per $1,000 of assessed property value. The new bond would begin in 2014 and is estimated to cost $.70 per $1,000 of assessed property value.

The new bond aims to renovate and modernize the school, which was built in 1957 and designed to hold 500 students. Today the school houses 600 students; school district officials expect that number to rise during the next two decades.

“It needs to be upgraded to meet today’s standards and expanded to accommodate the students we have now and in the future,” said Mark Venn, Sedro-Woolley School District superintendent.

Originally built according to a “California campus” design, the school’s breezeways connecting the buildings are a flawed concept for the Pacific Northwest’s cool, wet climate. The breezeway roofs leak and their supports are rusting. Building roofs and sidewalls are leaking, and water seeps in at the seams of the single-pane windows, whose caulk is failing.

“It’s not keeping the water out,” said Principal Scott McPhee during a January media tour of the facility.

The barrel-roofed gymnasium is one more problem spot for water infiltration. “We’ve had a rain-out at a basketball game,” said McPhee.

Because of the school’s age, its wiring was insufficient for today’s high-tech learning tools. Today, retrofitted wiring runs bulge from classroom walls.

Over the years, rooms have been knocked out and reconfigured to create storage and classroom space. Underground pipes are failing almost like clockwork. The kitchen daily feeds about 1,500 kids from other schools in the district. Only one of the school’s two boilers is functioning. One space, referred to as the “cafegymatorium,” is used so much that the new plan calls for a second gym.

“We try to use every space available, but she’s an old building,” said McPhee. “She’s tired. She needs some help.”

That help will come if voters approve the bond, which responds to concerns raised after a $46 million bond measure in 2007 failed to reach the 60 percent of votes needed to pass.

A task force formed to analyze that bond’s failure “felt we needed to focus on one thing,” said Venn. “This is the biggest need in the dis-trict. This is our No. 1 priority. Let’s take care of it,” he said.

Ballots for the bond measure were mailed to Sedro-Woolley citizens on Jan. 19, and must be submitted or postmarked by Feb. 8. Ballots may be dropped off at the Sedro-Woolley Post Office or the Skagit County Courthouse.

For more information on the bond, go to www.swsd.k12.wa.us or call 360.855.3500.

What:  SWSD bond request
Why:  Renovation/modernization of Cascade Middle School
How much:  $17 million + $6 million state funds; $.70 per $1,000 assessed value
When:  Ballots must be submitted or postmarked  on or before Feb. 8
Dropoff locations: Sedro-Woolley Post Office (in alley between Eastern Ave. and Metcalf), Burlington Parks and Recreation Building, or Mount Vernon South Courthouse Horseshoe Parking Lot

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