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Lakeridge parents discuss new school, bond vote

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By Brian Beckley-The Courier-Herald

Sumner School District officials hosted a forum last week at Lakeridge Middle School to discuss what the community wants in a re-built Lakeridge.

The answer, quite simply, was a new Lakeridge - and talk quickly turned to how best get the word out about an upcoming bond vote that would provide the money to rebuild the aging school.

“The focus changed to ‘I want my kids to go to a new school,'” Deputy Superintendent Craig Spencer said.

“We heard loud and clear that they are really in support of this bond issue,” agreed Tom Bates of BLRB Architects, the firm tasked to build a new school.

For the past two years, the bond containing the money for a new Lakeridge, as well as improvements and upgrades to many other schools, has received a majority of votes, but not the 60 percent “supermajority” needed for passage.

District officials estimate the bond failed by as few as 126 votes in February and the board is considering running the bond again in May in hopes of keeping some control over the spiraling cost of construction.

From 2006 to 2007, the bond increased by almost $20 million, though no new projects were added.

Lakeridge was built in 1981 and even then was a scaled-down version of the school originally planned, due to cost overruns. The design of the building makes expansion impossible and currently all eighth-grade classes are held in portables.

There are also other problems in the building, such as leaks and difficulties with the heating and air ventilation system. According to the district, maintenance workers spend more time at Lakeridge than any of the district's other 12 schools.

“It costs a lot of classroom money to Band-Aid this school,” Spencer said.

“I wouldn't let my house get that way,” said parent Bill Schweyen, whose children will attend Lakeridge when they reach middle school.

During discussions about a new Lakeridge, parents deferred to teacher needs, but said they were concerned the new building help create the smaller learning communities that are part of the middle school concept.

“This has direct correlation to the design of the building,” Bates said.

“I don't think this school does a very good job of it,” architect Lee Fenton agreed.

Parents also said they wanted the design to address safety concerns, such as the ability to host evening events while closing off the parts of the building not in use, as well as provide a new center for the surrounding community.

Sumner School Board members are scheduled to discuss a bond re-vote during their meeting at 7 p.m. tonight, Wednesday, at the district offices, 1202 Wood Ave., Sumner.

Brian Beckley can be reached at bbeckley@courierherald.com.

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