Enumclaw School District prepares for three year bond project

The Enumclaw School District’s coffers will swell by $68 million next month, the result of a bond sale authorized by district voters.

Then, with cash in hand, the district can begin the three-year process that will eventually see the replacement of Black Diamond Elementary School and substantial renovation of Enumclaw High.

District patrons, by a razor-thin margin, supported the district’s funding request during an April 28 election. Needing 60 percent approval, final figures from the King County Elections Department showed the ballot measure passing with 60.05 percent support. There were 6,516 voters participating in the process and 3,913 voted “yes.”

Superintendent Mike Nelson said the district’s strategy is to sell the entire bond package at once to take advantage of favorable interest rates. Indications, Nelson said, are that interest rates may be climbing.

Aside from the $68 million OK’d by district voters, the school system is in line for an $18.1 million contribution from the state. The state money is a grant, with no need for repayment.

As a result of the bond passage, district property owners will see essentially no change in their tax bills. The new bonded indebtedness replaces the obligation incurred about two decades ago, authorized for the building of Thunder Mountain Middle School.

Construction plans are now financially assured, but students will not be impacted for at least a year, as the district prepares for major work at both school sites.

Black Diamond Elementary

Money from the upcoming bond sale will first be spent on preparing the district’s J.J. Smith building for full-time inhabitants. It has been years since the facility was used for day-to-day education, as it has been given over to a variety of district and community uses.

Beginning this summer, the district will begin making upgrades at J.J. Smith in preparation for the 2016-17 school year. Black Diamond students will be transported to Enumclaw for the year, while the present, aging Black Diamond Elementary is torn down and a new school rises on the same site.

Much of the work done at J.J. Smith will be electrical upgrades to handle current technology.

Black Diamond students will be on the move for a full school year, then settle into a new building in the fall of 2017.

Enumclaw High School

The next year will be spent finalizing plans, seeking appropriate permits and calling for bids, Nelson wrote in an email to the newspaper.

Construction will be handled in two phases spanning two years, beginning in 2016. It is anticipated the project will be completed by the time school opens in the fall of 2018.

Plans for EHS include a two-story structure on the south side of the campus that will replace aging classrooms, the library, science labs, music facility, auditorium and gymnasium. This replacement structure is anticipated to dovetail into areas that were remodeled in 2000 – the school commons, offices and the art and automotive wings.

Portable classrooms will be installed on the EHS campus, to be used during construction.