School bond designed to ease overcrowding at Jackson High
Last updated 2/1/2018 at Noon
The results of this month’s election in the Everett Public Schools will have a direct effect on both students and property owners in Mill Creek.
Voters will be asked to decide on two measures on the Feb. 13 ballot. The first is a bond measure that will fund the construction of a fourth high school on 180th Street SE along the southern boundary of the district adjacent to the proposed 19th elementary school operated by the district.
The second ballot measure is a Replacement Educational and Operations Levy that would replace the capital normally contributed to the district by the state through property taxes.
“The tax situation is always complicated, but never more than this year,” Everett Public Schools Board President Caroline Mason told The Beacon.
“It’s important to note that even with the state’s decision to increase the property tax rate, the amount being requested by our schools will be lower than they have been since 2013.”
The 2018 tax statements that will be delivered to Mill Creek homeowners this month include the EP&O levy approved by voters in 2014. The new measure, which would not go into effect until 2019, would replace the expiring levy and result in a net reduction of property taxes designated for schools, according to a district spokesperson.
Diane Bradford, the communications coordinator for the district confirmed that, if approved, the new tax rate will be $4.89 per $1,000 in assessed value. That is down from the current $5.41 per $1,000 and even lower than the $5.88 that was assessed two years ago.
The replacement levy means the owner of a $500,000 home in Mill Creek will save $260 on the school portion of their local tax bill in 2019. And $495 over their bill in 2017.
Bradford said the savings will be offset by anticipated increase in property taxes to cover some of the costs of K-12 education as ordered by the state Supreme Court to lower the need for levies in the future.
According to the district, Everett schools are expected to add 1,600 more students over the next 10 years. An estimated 800 of those students will be enrolled in high school.
Leanna Albrecht, the EPS director of communications, said the 2018 bond will influence the quality of education for current and future students at Jackson, Heatherwood Middle School, Penny Creek Elementary and Mill Creek Elementary.
“If approved, the voter-approved bond will require the district to adjust boundaries when the new high school opens in 2022,” Albrecht said. “It will shrink the enrollment at Jackson and allow the district to balance enrollment at the remaining high schools.”
In addition to replacing portables with upgraded permanent classrooms at Jackson, Mason said the additional funding would be utilized to improve safety and accessibility at the high school.
“We’ve done all we can with the resources available,” Jackson High principal Dave Peters said. “We have 17 portables on campus now.”
Peters said the school could easily fill 30 portables, but there is no space on campus to accommodate them.
“The only way we could add any more portables would be to have them on the JV softball field. After that, we’re probably talking about modifying classroom schedules,” Peters said.
“But that will not provide more space in the gym, give us another weight room, make the hallways wider or add capacity in the science labs.
“We’re at full capacity right now.”
Additional permanent classrooms were added at Jackson during the 2002-03 school year along with enclosing a courtyard to create an annex.
Enrollment in the Everett district has grown by 1,100 students over the past decade and is expected to grow by an additional 1,600 in the next 10 years.
In addition to classroom resources at Jackson, Mason said the funds from a renewed Operations Levy would help make schools in Mill Creek more accessible and “a safer place for students to learn and for teachers to enrich young minds.”
The district now has 117 portable classrooms at 26 different schools. That number could grow to 145 portables in the next 10 years if the ballot measures are not approved.
If approved by voters, the ballot initiatives would allow the district to build 36 permanent classrooms, expand parking areas, and purchase land for a 20th elementary school.
High schools operated by Everett Public Schools are designed to accommodate 1,500 students. The enrollment at Jackson is currently more than 2,100 students, with enrollment expected to top 2,300 with 30 portables in the next four years without relief from the addition of a new high school.
The school board president added that additional funding could be utilized to remodel space for STEM and vocational career pathway programs at each high school.
Jackson would house the Informational and Communication technology pathway, which includes careers in software publishing, computer sciences, electronic and catalog shopping as well as electronic equipment and instrument repair. Each of the pathways offered at Jackson have employment rates that are twice the national average.
Cascade High School would house classrooms for aerospace and advanced manufacturing, while Everett High School would offer courses that lead to careers in the medical and health fields.
The emphasis at the new high school would be on career education for industries in energy and sustainability.
“The state will add 740,000 new jobs over the next five years. That’s three times faster than the national average,” Mason explained. “Employers in this area have a shortage of qualified individuals to fill these high-paid positions, and are being forced to hire employees from outside the region to meet the demand.”
“It’s not a matter of if we need another high school,” Albrecht said. “It’s when. We need to take action now, because it takes a full four years to go from design to first shovel of dirt to the first day of classes.”