2022 … and beyond!

Challenger High School Phase II construction continues!

Bond Project Calendar

As 2021 comes to a close, we wanted to take a look back on some of our major construction projects, as well as provide you a forecast of the completion dates of our future bond-funded projects. All of the projects listed below are being funded by the voter-approved 2019 School Construction Bond.

2022
Katherine G. Johnson Elementary
Challenger High School Phase II

2023
Graham-Kapowsin High School Expansion
New Naches Trail Elementary School

2024
Elementary #19

2025
New Bethel High School
Evergreen Elementary Expansion
Elk Plain School of Choice Improvements
New Kitchens at Bethel Middle and Roy Elementary

2026
Cedarcrest Middle School Improvements

2028
Old Bethel High School Renovations

2022: Katherine G. Johnson Elementary

With Katherine G. Johnson Elementary scheduled to open in 2022! Students and staff started this school year in class together using space in nearby schools. That way, once construction is complete, they will be able to move into the new school without missing a beat.

2022: Challenger High School Phase II

The second phase of Challenger High School’s renovation and expansion continues, and framing is already underway on the 31,000-square foot project. The new building will add more classroom space, as well as more parking and a practice field. It is on track to open in September of 2022.

2023: New Naches Trail Elementary

The Naches Trail Elementary project was originally slated to be a complete remodel and expansion, but a cost analysis determined it would actually be more expensive to modernize the current Naches Trail than it would be to build a new school.

Originally built in 1979, Naches Trail is one of our oldest elementaries. The school received some facility improvements in 1997, but the student population has outgrown the building and the 14 portable classrooms that are now being used on campus.

By building a completely new school on adjacent property the district already owns, Naches Trail students won’t have to be relocated during the construction, which saves money, makes the build quicker, and is safer for students and teachers.

2023: Graham-Kapowsin High School Expansion

New classroom wing at GKHS

The Graham-Kapowsin High School expansion project is moving forward, and the School Board has already approved the site’s Value Engineering Report and Design Development Drawings.

The 33,000-square-foot expansion will add a classroom wing, a gym and weight room, along with administrative spaces and a larger commons.

2024: Elementary #19

We’re getting closer and closer to finalizing a site for our nineteenth elementary school! The district and DR Horton are now in agreement on the language of the First Amendment to the Purchase and Sale Agreement for the future site of the school, which will be located within the Rainier Ridge at Lipoma Communities. Our School Board adopted the resolution at a special meeting in October.

2025: New Bethel High School

After nearly 70 years, the staff and students at Bethel High are not only anticipating a brand new school, but they are they are changing their mascot from the Braves to the Bison!

House Bill 1356 took effect July 25, 2021 and states that, “beginning January 1, 2022, public schools may not use Native American names, symbols, or images as school mascots, logos, or team names.”

The school’s new Bison mascot was chosen by a committee of students, staff and community members and was unanimously approved by the school board in November.

As they considered dozens of mascot ideas, the committee embraced the idea of an animal that lived in community — one that didn’t act as an individual, but that saw the power in being part of a whole. An animal that was strong on its own, but stronger together.

Concept art for the new BHS Bison logo

The original timeline for opening the new Bethel High was September 2023. Changes to the Pierce County Stormwater regulations have delayed the opening until 2024 or 2025.

The updates to the Pierce County Stormwater Manual’s regulations have resulted in development standards that are different than when the District purchased the property in 2009.

These include more stringent threshold methodologies to determine if the site’s stormwater could impact a “Category 1 Wetland,” which is located in the southeast corner of the new Bethel High School site.

The District has already begun work to study the movement of the site’s groundwater, but the process can take up to one year.

But that hasn’t stopped the design work on the new school. Earlier this year the School Board approved a plan to build a memorial in honor of Casey Crate on the New Bethel High School property. Plans show a plaza that would memorialize Crate and all the other graduates of the Bethel School District who lost their lives in combat activities in defense of our country.

Artist design for a Case Crate Memorial Plaza at the new Bethel High School.

District bond sale saves taxpayers millions

The district took advantage of low bond interest rates this year to save taxpayers money. A sale of bonds that included a portion of the bonds authorized by voters in 2019, along with a refinancing of existing bonds will result in savings of millions of dollars for taxpayers.

The new bonds, which are a portion of the 2019 authorization, will mature over 20 years and have a borrowing cost of just 2.24%. This is half the rate of approximately 4.50% used for planning purposes when describing the cost to taxpayers in 2019 and represents a savings of over $47 million in tax collections.

“This was a great opportunity to demonstrate good fiscal stewardship and save our taxpayers a significant amount of money,” said Superintendent Tom Seigel. He emphasized that the savings will go directly to taxpayers through lower future tax collections. “This is money that will now stay in our community and local economy, rather than go to pay interest on bonds. The savings will also help the District promote future tax rate stability as it sells the remaining bonds approved by voters in 2019.”

Even though a methodology change caused many school districts’ bond ratings to drop this year, Bethel actually retained the strong Aa2 rating we’ve had for many years. Chief Financial Officer Bryan Verley said this was a testament to the good financial management in our district, which is something we’re very proud of.

Bonds are for Building, Levies are for Learning

All of our current bond projects are being funded by the voter-approved 2019 School Construction Bond. On February 8, our district will have two levies on the ballot for renewal. These levy dollars are separate from the 2019 bond.

Our Educational Programs and Operations Levy was last renewed in 2018. It helps pay for critical things like special education programs and extra transportation costs — items the state does not fully fund.

Our Technology Levy funds our iPad program that helped our district transition quickly to online learning during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

You can learn more about both levies by clicking here: bethelsd.org/Levy2022

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Helping kids learn is the driving force behind all we do in the Bethel School District.

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