School district is proactive and looking ahead | Letter to the Editor

I recently met with representatives of the Enumclaw School District at the Black Diamond Elementary School. What Judy and I wanted to find was more information about the replacement plans for the Black Diamond Elementary School buildings.

In our opinion the Enumclaw School District, Superintendant Mike Nelson, school board and staff are proactive and looking into the future in their managing of the school district. As mandated by the state of Washington the school district hired an outside firm to study, research and report on all the school facilities in the district. The results of the study and recommendations were brought to the school board and after much input from citizens and staff the school board unanimously approved a resolution for an April 2015 bond.

The bond will allow the construction of a new Black Diamond Elementary School in place of the aging 50-plus-year-old, 10-classroom building and the many portables. The enrollment now is just under 300 students with 40 percent of them in the portables. The new structure will have two stories and a have room for close to 450 students in a safe and secure setting. The school buses will have a loading zone around the back side of the building to keep the children safe from traffic. There will be a gym/auditorium that will be usable for students and community activities.

This plan will honor the 100-plus-year-old history of having a school in Black Diamond. We understand that the exterior design will blend in with the Historical District buildings and yet be a modern, up-to-date facility.

The schools in the coal mining town of Black Diamond were located on the same land where the present elementary school is now. The town was originally owned and founded by the Black Diamond Coal Company in 1882 and was sold to the Pacific Coast Company which operated the coal mines, railroads and steamships, and wharfs up and down the Pacific Coast. The company also funded the school district and built the two school buildings on the school property. The first school building was a wood structure where grades 1 through 8 were taught. As the need for more room occurred an addition was added to the wood building and grades 9 thru 12 were added to the curriculum. The population of Black Diamond continued to increase to around 3,000, prompting a need for additional space so a three-story brick building was constructed becoming the high school with an auditorium on the top floor and shop in the basement with school rooms and office space in the remaining areas.

As time passed and coal sales slowed the financial state of the coal company began to fail. The financial downturn of the company affected the status of the Black Diamond schools which relied on funds from the company to operate. The coal company started selling its assets in Black Diamond and continued to go out of business. The Black Diamond School Board made a decision to join the Enumclaw School District and a decision was then made to build a new elementary school on the land where the existing school buildings were located. The kids in junior high and high school were to be bused to Enumclaw schools. This transition occurred in the 1940s and ‘50s and in the 1960s the new school was constructed.

That brings us to today with a school that is outdated. There are portable classrooms in use and the overall situation is a school building complex that is bursting at the seams. Security and safety of the students and staff are not conducive to a one-level floor plan with many portable classrooms.

The bond, with state construction match money, will also allow the Enumclaw High School, which houses more than 1,300 students, a more safe and secure facility for its students and staff by erecting a two-story secure and enclosed structure on the south side of the campus replacing aging classrooms, the library, science labs, music facility, auditorium and gymnasium. It would also dovetail into the remodeled commons, offices, art and automotive wing creating a more secure facility for students, staff and community.

The best part of this bond, besides solving the much-needed improvements to the facilities, is that it will not put an additional burden on the taxpayers, for it is renewing an existing bond that built Thunder Mountain Middle School. All the voters in the Enumclaw School District will have an opportunity to vote for this bond. We believe it is time for our communities to get out the vote and show that we are proactive about our future and care for the safety and security of our students.

Judy and I will be voting “yes” and we hope you will too. The bond will require a 60 percent supermajority to pass – which is hard to get – so we encourage everyone to vote “yes.” What could be more important than our kids?  We invite you to look at the Enumclaw School District website, Enumclaw.wednet.edu, and if you are in the Enumclaw School District become involved and please remember to vote “yes.”

Keith and Judy Watson

Black Diamond