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Building Schools. Building Community. Building Our Future.

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In May, 2007, voters in the Federal Way Public Schools service area approved a $149 million bond construction package to rebuild old and deteriorating schools. Five schools and three district facilities are being rebuilt. Twenty-three schools and Memorial Field are getting important upgrades thanks to the approximately $20 million in state match grants triggered by the bond’s passage. In fact, all district facilities built before 1990, except for Federal Way High School and the district’s central offices (ESC), will receive high-priority repairs and upgrades such as roofs, heating systems and new plumbing and wiring.

The Need for New Schools

In the 1950’s and 1960’s, Federal Way experienced a home construction boom fueled by an expanding Boeing and Weyerhaeuser workforce. Naturally, a school construction boom followed on its heels. Twenty-five new schools were built between 1952 and 1971 – over two-thirds of the district’s current facilities. Today those buildings are 35 years old or older. Many of these schools do not outwardly appear to be in disrepair. But the things you often can’t see, like roofs, furnaces, and electrical, plumbing, and ventilation systems are the most costly to replace and repair. Independent consultants analyzed the structures and indicated that rebuilding is the most cost-effective solution. By rebuilding these schools with bond financing, the district is conserving more of its operations budget for instruction-related budget items. The schools being replaced were built in the “California school” style popular in the 60’s, with long hallways and multiple entrances. Teachers were essentially islands unto themselves in the classroom. New research about teaching and learning, as well as feedback from major corporations like Microsoft, says that students will be entering a workforce in which collaborating is essential. Yet California Style school buildings aren’t easily retrofitted to allow team teaching or other forms of collaborative learning. Other issues that have emerged in the past couple of decades:

  • Bringing technology applications unheard of in the 1960s into these buildings is problematic.
  • Heating and cooling them is inefficient and costly compared to new state-of-the-art facilities.
  • Maintaining security in and around the buildings is challenging, given the spread out layouts and number of entrances.

Federal Way voters agreed that, in the first decade of a new millennium, these schools no longer support student education and safety at a level that parents and the community expect and that students deserve. It’s time to rebuild our oldest schools.

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