The Kent School District plans to spend as much as $5.4 million to purchase property to house three of its nontraditional programs. COURTESY FILE PHOTO, Kent School District

The Kent School District plans to spend as much as $5.4 million to purchase property to house three of its nontraditional programs. COURTESY FILE PHOTO, Kent School District

Kent School District looks to purchase property for three programs

School board approves reallocation of $5.4 million for potential locations

The Kent School Board approved a reallocation of $5.6 million for seven projects from the 2016 bond fund to give the district money for a potential property purchase this spring or summer.

Kent School District staff asked the board for the reallocation to find locations to potentially house The Outreach Program (TOP), Kent Virtual Academy and iGrad programs.

“We have an important opportunity to purchase property that will allow more permanent space for these programs,” Wade Barringer, associate superintendent of Strategic Initiatives & Operations said to the board at its March 22 regular meeting.

Barringer said the district’s capital planning team determined there was a time sensitive need for the property purchase. The board unanimously approved the reallocation at a March 29 special meeting.

The Outreach Program and Kent Virtual Academy are housed at the former Kent Phoenix Academy and Sequoia Middle School, 11100 SE 264th St. The district is spending $8 million (from the 2018 capital levy contingency fund) to convert that facility into the new Canyon Ridge Middle School to help handle the increased number of middle schoolers in the fall as the district shifts sixth-grade students to middle schools from the elementary schools.

Kent’s iGrad (individualized graduation & degree) program operates out of a storefront at a strip mall, which the district spends about $240,000 per year to lease, according to district documents.

The Outreach Program (TOP) is designed to prepare students for their future by providing community-based transition services to enhance post-school quality of life for students with disabilities, according to the district’s website. The students range in age from 18 to 21 and have gone through traditional high school special education programs. While at TOP, students can complete their final portfolio to meet the last requirement of the culminating project.

Kent Virtual Academy began this school year. It is a nontraditional learning community designed for students in grades 6-12, according to the district website. The academy offers a wide range of virtual classes, a flexible schedule and dedicated district teachers and staff to connect with.

The district’s iGrad program works with Green River College and Renton Technical College to offer a second plus chance to students who have dropped out or are at risk of dropping out of high school.

Barringer declined to reveal any details about the potential property purchase. The location or locations are reportedly near downtown and bus routes. He said there is at least one property available and could be a couple of more near that location.

“If we have the opportunity to purchase property, it’s centrally located in Kent on the transportation line,” said Barringer, who added that site would benefit students who need to take a public bus to reach the schools. “We are always looking for property. …Properties centrally located on bus lines are very rare, so when things pop up we need to take advantage of that opportunity.”

The district, however, doesn’t have a budget for property purchases. The 2016 bond didn’t include any funds to buy property. But by reallocating funds under the resolution passed by the board, the district will have the money.

The seven projects, initially funded under the 2016 bond, would still be completed, but by using funds from the 2018 capital projects levy.

The reallocated projects are:

• Meridian Middle School field renovation, $1.7 million

• Lake Youngs Elementary roof replacement, $1.19 million

• Kent-Meridian High direct digital controls (DDC), a single control point for a building’s various systems, such as HVAC, lighting, alarm systems, $1.07 million

• Meadow Ridge Elementary flooring, $850,000

• Carriage Crest Elementary parking lot, $452,708

• District maintenance building sprinkler system, $181,084

• District maintenance building fire alarm, $151,023

Barringer said the district will complete all of the above projects and that the shift of funds wouldn’t impact the work. He said none of the projects are part of the 2023 bond measure on the April 25 ballot.

“Capital levy projects are broad enough that when we drilled in, some space opened up funds for additional projects with deferred maintenance projects no longer needed because we built new schools,” Barringer said about the 2018 capital projects levy. “We will use capital levy funds to pay back bond and reallocation, and all levy projects should be finished. …A bond is promises made promises kept, so even though we borrow from the bond, we make sure we will stay on this.”

Board member Joe Bento asked Barringer what the plans are for The Outreach Program, Kent Virtual Academy and Igrad if the property purchase doesn’t go through or if it takes a long time to finalize.

Barringer declined to talk specific plans. He hopes the programs can move to a newly purchased location.

“Without saying here, everyone impacted knows about it,” Barringer said. “We are not ready to say a plan will happen, but we have plans. It depends if we have access to (a new) property and can turn it over quick enough to get one or two (programs) in there. We have a plan, if not.”

Bento than asked about specifics for The Outreach Program.

“It’s not for public consumption now, but we do have a plan,” Barringer said.

Bento asked if the property purchase would require any construction by the district.

“We will not build anything. …the property has existing structures to allow quick renovation,” Barringer said.

Superintendent Israel Vela added his support for the property purchase.

“TOP space is needed,” Vela said. “iGrad we need to get on to KSD property from a fiscal perspective. Enrollment is a key to this as well.”

Board member Leslie Hamada agreed it’s a good move to buy property.

“I hope our public is listening because there were a lot of questions here I had and the public had some as this is kind of confusing,” Hamada said. “But we are actually taking advantage of a situation that will be financially beneficial to the district.”

The details also convinced Board Vice President Awale Farah to make the purchase.

“A property presents itself conveniently on a bus line where we want it,” Farah said. “It’d be crazy not to do that.”

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