Edmonds School Board authorizes facilities improvements at educational services center

School board members and staff meet via Zoom Tuesday night.

The Edmonds School District Board board of directors at its Feb. 8 meeting approved a measure to fund facilities improvements at the school district’s Lynnwood-based educational services center, which houses administrative offices.

The project consists of replacing the building’s roof and making improvements to the HVAC system and lighting. All approximately 30 years old, these systems are past the end of their service life. 

The district’s capital projects office requested an increase in the project’s preliminary budget authorization of $5.1 million to a total of $9.2 million. The total cost includes sales tax, completed design and architect’s construction administration activities, permits and special inspections and testing.

Director Keith Smith said he is glad the school district is paying attention to the outdated systems.

“I’m viewing this as a health and safety thing,” Smith said. “I think it’s really great that we are going to make sure this project gets done.”

President Nancy Katims shared similar sentiments, saying that after working in the district office for 17 years, she’s glad to see it getting the attention it needs.

“Our district office is way past time for these needed repairs,” Katims said. “When I worked there, the roof frequently leaked. The ventilation was so bad that whenever a new person started working in the district office, we were never surprised when they became sick during their first year.”

The motion to approve the project was passed unanimously.

Also during the meeting, Scriber Lake High School students gave a report, sharing their experiences from the fall mini-courses that students were offered this year. 

Fall mini-courses are five-day sessions where students can learn about various topics that are not taught in school. One of them, “Don’t Die Out There,” covered outdoor survival tactics. Students earn up to .25 credits for attending the whole course.

“One thing I took away from it is if you understand what’s happening … (surviving outdoors) is really not that scary, but it’s actually kind of fun,” said Scriber Lake student Catherine Carr.

Photos from the “Don’t Die Out There” mini-course hosted by Scriber Lake High School.

Scriber Principal Andrea Hillman said these courses have benefited her students, and she hopes that eventually they can be offered at every district high school.

The report continued with Hillman giving an update on the school improvement plan for Scriber Lake, an alternative high school that serves many district students who have struggled in traditional high school settings. Of the three goals the school has been focusing on, Hillman said she wanted to highlight one: increasing the school’s on-time graduation rate.

Since 2015, Scriber’s on-time graduation rate has more than doubled, rising from 21.4% to 47.4%. However, the school’s goal is to increase that number even more by the end of this year, bringing the on-time rate to 52%.

Hillman said to reach this goal, the high school has been using an intensive progress monitoring and check-in model, meaning that classes for seniors are laid out very carefully to ensure they stay on track to graduate on time. The school has also been using visual methods to help students know where they’re at, as well as to get them excited about graduating. 

“We predict we will hit our goal of 52% on time this year and likely exceed it,” Hillman said.

Superintendent Gustavo Balderas continued the meeting by talking about bringing volunteers back into schools. He said that while other states have been eliminating their COVID-19 mandates, Washington isn’t there yet, and schools need to continue operating under COVID restrictions. 

“We are looking at this and we are creating plans in terms of being really intentional of where we can place volunteers, but it is going to be a work in progress for us,” Balderas said.

The superintendent said he is grateful for those who want to volunteer, and he is actively looking at how to get them back into schools as quickly and safely as possible.

During public comments, school district parent Jennifer Louch asked the district to bring volunteers back to schools as soon as possible. 

“I feel that children very much deserve the benefit of classroom volunteers,” Louch said. “Teachers are burning out. Kids are burning out and acting out. Many students are lagging behind and we can’t take advantage of community volunteers.”

A healthcare professional, Louch said she has been overly cautious during the pandemic, but she now feels like the benefits largely outweigh the risks when it comes to having volunteers in the classroom. 

“More than any time in the district’s history, I think we really need to optimize our resources, including community volunteers and other partnerships,” she said.

Louch requested the superintendent expedite the paperwork for volunteers’ return.

In other business, Assistant Superintendent Dana Geaslen reported that positive COVID cases have dropped significantly during the past few weeks. The district now has around 1,600 positive cases, a drop from around 4,000 positive cases in mid-January.

Assistant Superintendent Dana Geaslen talks about the decreasing number of positive COVID cases in schools.

Families will continue to be notified if their student has been in close proximity to anyone who has tested positive, or if any or all classrooms in the school are shifting back to remote learning due to a rise in cases, she said.

Mara Marano-Bianco, program manager at the Snohomish Health District, said the school district will continue closely managing cases and contract tracing to alert anyone who may have been exposed to the virus.

At the end of the meeting, Superintendent Balderas announced the recent levy had 60.5% approval at the time of the meeting.

“Fifteen percent of our operating budget comes from this levy so it’s a good reason to be excited,” Balderas said. “I appreciate all the support from the community, our association partners and you, the board, for your leadership in this effort.”

— By Lauren Reichenbach

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