November Bond: Looking for the best of the worst case scenarios

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District officials are looking into leasing commercial space, such as this abandoned Kmart building on Pacific Avenue, and turning it into classrooms

For many of our students, school starts pretty early. As winter approaches and the days get shorter, our headlights pick up the silhouettes of kids waiting at bus stops in the early morning hours. But what if school started even earlier?

“Double Shifting” is one idea currently being explored by the Long Range Facilities Task Force to help combat overcrowding in the event the November bond does not pass.

In a double shifting model, half of a school’s student population would attend from roughly 6 a.m. to noon, and the other half would attend from noon until 6 p.m. In this scenario, you can only imagine what time the buses would have to roll to start picking kids up in the morning. One parent said, “In my house it would be like pajama day, every day.”

In preparation for the first Task Force meeting, district administrators prepared a list of possible educational models that would help take the pressure off of our overcrowded schools. With a successful November bond being “Plan A,” this list of “Plan B” scenarios included everything from multi-track, year-round schools to the idea of leasing local commercial spaces to use as classrooms. Specifically mentioned was the old Kmart building on Pacific Avenue and 176th.

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The Long Range Facilities Task Force met Sept. 18 at the Pierce County Skills Center.

As the first meeting began, Task Force members added their own ideas to the mix, including having elementary schools utilize available classroom space at nearby middle schools, using property at other districts, and online learning options.

That was followed by a spirited discussion that included a brainstorming session looking at potential impacts and pitfalls of each of the scenarios in question. The Task Force left no stone unturned, requesting more information on the impact to academics, staff recruitment and retention, maintenance, transportation, food services, traffic, and family schedules under each proposed model, as well as the financial impact on the district.

Another big topic that was broached was the impact on athletic programs under the new models, specifically in regards to year-round schools and double shifting.

The next task force meeting will be held in mid-October. Prior to that, the district will be gathering information and finding answers to many of the questions proposed by the Task Force so they can continue their discussions and decision making as they move forward, planning for the worst.

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

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