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School district digests comments before decision

During the second of two public hearings to get feedback on its mitigation agreement with YarrowBay Developers and the city of Black Diamond, Enumclaw School District leaders heard many of the same questions and a few new.

The Enumclaw School Board is looking to approve its portion of the agreement at its December meeting.

About 18 citizens, many local, but some from Renton and Kent, attended the Thursday night meeting at the Enumclaw High School library. Like the previous hearing, which took place in Black Diamond, Superintendent Mike Nelson presented an overview of the agreement which will give the school district seven school sites in YarrowBay’s Black Diamond master plan development. YarrowBay is planning to build a total of 4,530 single family homes and 1,520 multifamily units in Black Diamond over the course of the next 15 or more years.

Nelson told those in attendance he’s proud of this package and would put it against any like it in the state. He said the district has tried to be proactive and transparent in its effort to provide the district security for the future. Rather than sit back and wait for the homes to produce school children, he said, the district is planning ahead, getting land where it is useful and appropriate for schools.

Nine people spoke at the meeting, addressing the issues of traffic, impact on neighboring wells, future construction bonds, the safety and appropriateness of the chosen school sites and the collection of mitigation fees.

The district has provided answers to many of the questions on its Web site, www.enumclaw.wednet.edu.

One of the latest questions is, could the city of Black Diamond form its own school district.

Nelson said the answer is no, state law does not allow a school district to be broken away by itself to from an new or separate school district.

Currently, approximately 650 students in the Enumclaw School District are from Black Diamond.

Along those same lines, the question of Black Diamond joining the neighboring Tahoma or Kent district continues to arise. The law does provide that boundaries of two school districts can be adjusted, by petiton or an agreement, if appropriate. But, Nelson said, this would cause a financial burden to the remaining tax payers of the district and could translate to a loss of certain district programs, by eliminating approximately 15 percent of the district’s per pupil state funding. The transfer of territory would also mean the district’s assessed valuation would drop significantly.

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