Kent School District studies options in wake of growth

The Kent School District has a number of potential changes coming up over the next several years and has started discussions of how to best approach those changes in a way that will accommodate its policy goals.

A report prepared by Richard Stedry, district chief business officer, and Fred Long, director of facility services, sheds some light to the district's options in the next five years.

While the district expects to enroll 27,487 students, a nine-student increase this fall, it projects to see significantly larger numbers in the following years. Five-year enrollment projections expect the size of the district to steadily escalate to 28,984 students by 2020.

According to the report, changes at the elementary school level would include adjusting them to K-5 schools, with sixth grade being incorporated into the middle school curriculum. Kent Mountain View Academy and Kent Pheonix Academy would consolidate to create a seventh elementary school.

Construction of a new elementary school in Covington would also help assuage class sizes, but is expected to cost $38.8 million and would require a bond referendum, the report said. The school would be constructed on the Halleson/Wikstrom property at 12033 256th St.

Major changes for middle schools include integrating sixth grade into the class structure. By taking on the sixth grades, elementary schools would have 70 additional classes for instruction, the report said.

The condensed educational setting also would provide more instructional options for students falling behind, the report claimed. Opportunities include high level courses for students performing below expectations that could help bring them up to standard.

The district also is considering selling several properties it owns, including the old Panther Lake Elementary School, the 30-acre Plemmons property on 124th Avenue, the 11-acre South King County Activity Center, and the 13-acre Scarsella property. Many of these properties were bought in the 1990s and have been undeveloped since.

To support some of the major changes planned in the next several years, the district's Citizens Bond Review Committee has recommended a bond referendum of $180 million to fund the variety of projects. The amount includes the cost of construction for the Covington elementary school as well as new classrooms for Neely-O'Brien school, multipurpose rooms for nine elementary schools and tracks, courts and fields at secondary schools.

However, it's uncertain just how much community support will be behind such a bond. With a 60-percent passage rate of the maintenance and operation and tech levies, Kent may not be ready for yet another cost spike for education.

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