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Everett Public Schools construction bond frequently asked questions

This article answers a number of frequently asked questions regarding what is in the Everett School District’s April 22, 2014, capital bond election.
The Everett School District's construction bond will pay for projects throughout the district. Photo credit: Everett Public Schools.

By Mary Waggoner, Everett Public Schools Director of Communications, April 8, 2014.

1. What projects are included in the bond? Will my ballot list all of the projects?

Election laws limit the number of words on a ballot. The ballot language that will appear on the bond ballot will summarize the main projects within the allowed word limits. 

The bond includes:

  • Educational technology equipment and infrastructure to support student learning – including infrastructure for robust science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) technology needs
  • Renovation of Cascade High School science building to meet Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) requirements
  • Energy and HVAC upgrades, roof replacements, ADA upgrades and flooring replacements throughout the district -- a routine part of the district’s 40-year capital facilities modernization plan to maintain schools and extend their useful life beyond the state’s 30-year standard
  • Safety enhancements to school entryways so that visitors enter and leave through one doorway that can be monitored. Schools to have benefited from that work were North Middle and Woodside Elementary, new elementary school #18 and Hawthorne, Lowell, Madison and Jackson elementary schools
  • Modernizing and renovating North Middle School and Woodside Elementary School. North was originally built in 1981; Woodside opened as a new elementary school in 1980. Both schools appear on the district's 40-year capital facilities modernization plan among projects to be proposed for the 2014 bond.
  • New elementary #18 in the southern portion of the district to relieve overcrowding in that area
  • 40 additional classrooms in the form of new construction, conversions and portables. Based upon enrollment needs in the years of this bond, those additions could include but not be limited to Silver Firs, Mill Creek, Cedar Wood, Emerson, View Ridge, Jefferson, Woodside, Silver Lake, Forest View, Lowell, Hawthorne and Jackson elementary schools. These additions are designed to prepare for full day kindergarten classroom needs (when the state funds staffing for that program, potentially by 2018) and reduced class sizes in grades K-3 (when the state funds staffing for that lower class size, potentially by 2018)
  • Phase I of high school #4 in the southern part of the district where enrollment is growing the fastest. Cascade and Henry M. Jackson high schools are each well over optimum size of 1,500. Phase I of the high school #4 will be approximately 136,000 square feet for approximately 750 students. The school will be master planned for a future build-out to a full-sized, comprehensive high school for 1,500 students when student enrollment projections indicate such construction is needed.
  • Synthetic turf fields at Cascade and Henry M. Jackson high schools

2. How does the district calculate costs on such complex projects so far out into the future?

Costs for the bond projects were developed by consultants and adjusted to 2018 dollars. 2018 was the mid-point in that bond proposal cycle. Some projects will be built earlier than 2018 and thus cost less than the 2018 estimated amount. Others will be completed after 2018, with costs likely to come in higher than the 2018 estimated amount.  

To reach those cost estimates, the district worked with engineering and construction consultants whose businesses depend upon being precise. The consultants estimated what it would cost to complete all phases of each project. Projects usually include three cost phases:

  • Cost of design, architecture, engineering, city and county permits, site work – work always done AFTER a bond passes so that funding for this work is available.
  • Contractor costs, including all materials and state sales tax on materials – the contractor and sub contractors’ bid price and justifiable change orders.
  • Cost of furniture, equipment and furnishings – desks, chairs, whiteboards, computers, window blinds, copy machines, kitchen equipment, security systems – the items needed to conduct business in a school.

Construction costs (just the cost of materials and the labor to build) generally total 60 to 70 percent of full project cost. The remaining 30 to 40 percent is for fees for permits, engineering, architectural design, sales tax and furniture, equipment and furnishings. All together, the project cost calculation for this bond is $259.4 million.

The unusual specificity of some of the numbers is the result of beginning with a round number estimate and adding in percentages to adjust that estimate to include other factors. For example, begin with $1,250,000. Add a percentage for project costs (for example, 35%, as explained above), and then add a projected inflation rate (for example, 3.8%) each year for four years to arrive at 2018 costs. In this example the beginning number of $1,2050,000 becomes $1,958,994.

3. Is the district planning to get that $259 million in one lump sum?

No. The district sells bonds “as needed” to pay for each project. This staggered sale of bonds helps keeps the tax rate stable and provides funding when necessary to complete projects. 

4. How are the costs of Phase I of high school #4 determined?

Future cost projections are built upon estimates of what future costs could be for labor, materials, architectural fees, engineering, permitting, sales tax, materials, etc. – all the expenses of a construction project. For this bond, the district worked with consultants who estimated what those future costs might be four years from now – in 2018 which is mid-point in the bond. The Phase 1 of high school #4 could be built sooner than that and thus have cost less than estimated, or it could be built later with higher building costs. (It can take as long as four years after a bond passes for a high school to open.)

A common misconception about school construction projects is that the “full” cost is just the cost of hammer and nails to build it. In fact, there could be as much as $2-$3 million dollars in upfront costs – architectural fees, permitting, engineering and site work – before any lumber ever appears on site. 

Once a school construction project (or modernization project) is approved, a team spends months to study the school program needs, working with staff and community before designing the building – to ensure that it meets future educational needs and blends in with the community. Then the architects and engineers begin design documents that can be used in the construction bidding process. 

Once a design is final, school districts follow the legal steps to seek competitive bids, and construction can begin. 

Districts pay sales tax on all materials, and that adds to costs. Final costs of construction also include furniture and equipment to open a facility (or replacing aging desks and equipment in a modernized school).

The $89 million projected cost of Phase 1 high school #4 includes the above explained components – and the cost was calculated based upon what construction costs are expected to be in 2018.

5. Does this bond proposal include athletic fields for Henry M. Jackson and Cascade high schools?

Yes, the proposal does include those two projects.

6. Is Everett Public Schools still considering partnering with the city of Mill Creek for use of the H. M. Jackson High School field?

Conversations began with the city of Mill Creek some time ago, and that intention is still in effect. On March 25, 2014, the Mill Creek City Council and district board of directors held a joint work-study session about this topic and other ways the two entities can work together to share facilities and leverage resources.

7. What safety improvements are included in the bond?

Safety and security improvements for Woodside Elementary and North Middle are factored into the modernizing and rebuilding projects at those two schools. These include changing both schools from sprawling “California campus” facilities with multiple and separate buildings into contained facilities with clearly defined entrances where those who come and go can be greeted by adults in an office.

Similar safety and security improvements were in the bond proposal for the entryways of Hawthorne, Lowell, Madison and Jackson elementary schools.

8. How much of the bond includes educational technology? What will done with that money?

A large portion of the technology costs will go into infrastructure to support the increased number of technological devices, the wireless network and the exponentially increasing amount of data used in business and educational transactions. As the district has moved from a few computers in the back of classrooms, to rolling carts of laptops available on an “as needed” basis, to 3-D printers in some classrooms, industry-standard science and engineering equipment in classes for students and robotics clubs, a more robust infrastructure is needed.

The district network infrastructure must support the computing needs of students and adults who may have more than one technological device. Those commonly include phones, tablets, and laptops.

Some school districts are “testing” the new electronic Smarter Balance Assessments this year – Everett Public Schools is not, but the district is watching very closely how those districts deal with the requirement for those high stakes tests to be done on computers. The technology part of the bond was approximately $21.4 million, or about 8.2 percent of the total bond proposal.

9. What bond projects will the district begin first:

The district's history has been to start first with projects that add classroom space for student enrollment growth. That would put the new high school and the new elementary school as top priorities.

10. Where will High School #4 and Elementary #18 be built?

The schools are planned for co-location on the north side of 180th St. SE between 43rd and 47th Ave. SE.

11. What will happen to school attendance boundaries when the new schools are built?

Before the new schools are completed, the district will launch a boundary review process that includes parents, community and staff. The boundary review committee will study regional and local neighborhood configurations, school bus transportation patterns, enrollment projections, and traffic patterns. The committee will hold public meetings to gather neighborhood and district-wide comments and suggestions and will make a recommendation for boundary changes to the superintendent. The superintendent will review those recommendations before taking them to the school board to approve.

Watch school newsletters, the district and school websites and local media for information about the boundary review committee formation and its work.