Thanks to the excellent Courier-Herald articles recently written by Brenda Sexton and Dennis Box, we now know that our Enumclaw School District superintendent has been in land negotiations for two years with YarrowBay, a developer, and the city of Black Diamond to build seven new schools in the Black Diamond area.
This would be in support of the approved massive development of over 6,000 single and multi-family units to be constructed over a 15-year span in Black Diamond. Taxpayers within the school district would be expected to approve construction bonds that could easily exceed $300 million in today’s dollars. This agreement, which is supposed to be approved by the district board in its regular December meeting, raises some basic questions that should first be resolved.
Why is the Black Diamond area still within the boundaries of the Enumclaw School District? Why are we still busing students to and from Black Diamond over a dangerous, two-lane highway that crosses the Green River Gorge and is frequently shut down, the last time for six months or so, as the land mass on our side continues to slowly slide into the Green River? Both the Kent and Tahoma school districts now have schools within minutes of downtown Black Diamond and there are already students from Black Diamond attending schools in those districts. After all, those schools are much closer and the roads safer.
The Green River Gorge is more than a mere geographical divider. Our community interests are quite different. We look to Enumclaw to provide our basic needs for education, goods and services or reach out to Bonney Lake or Auburn for what is not available here. Black Diamond residents look north to Maple Valley, Covington and Kent to provide what might not be available in Black Diamond.
This enormous expansion will add at least 18,000 citizens, swelling the Black Diamond population far beyond the population in the Enumclaw area. We may ask why we would be willing to take on this large financial long-term burden to build schools in Black Diamond. Black Diamond residents should certainly be asking why they should help pay for the reconstruction and new facilities in Enumclaw in bonds that the Enumclaw district is now getting ready to present to us. Would it not make more sense to them to form their own district or join the much closer districts of Kent or Tahoma?
I find it surprising that our Enumclaw School District officials and our school board have never suggested we discuss these basic issues before obligating all of us to such an enormous and expensive change in our district.