Community Forum Q&A: Star Lake and Totem


    FWPS is engaging stakeholders, including parents, staff and community members, throughout the planning and design phases for each school impacted by the 2017 bond. So far, over 200 people have participated in discussions regarding the Star Lake Elementary and Totem Middle School bond projects, and the following have been common questions.   

    How did the school district estimate construction costs over time and what efforts are being made to mitigate the impacts of escalation? 

    In 2016, the district worked with construction managers and architects to generate initial cost estimates to inform the 2017 bond proposal. After reviewing data available through late 2016, the district took a conservative approach and included a 4 percent contingency for cost escalation. In addition, estimates for additional revenue were very conservative and additional grant sources were held in reserve in case they were needed.

    However, since that time, construction costs in the Puget Sound region have rapidly escalated to an unprecedented level. When reviewing data available through 2016, 4 percent represented the highest escalation seen in recent years. In 2018, that number jumped to 10 percent, in part due to significant construction in the region, which is causing an increase in material costs and decreasing the supply of qualified labor resources. This has presented the opportunity for the district to make adjustments that save funds while completing all projects and maintaining the tax rate commitment to our voters.

    Here are a few specific strategies to beat escalation costs:

    We are moving up the Totem Middle School project by four years. This allows us to save a significant amount in escalation costs as well as plan and design both the Star Lake Elementary and Totem Middle School projects at the same time and explore additional cost saving options with input from the community.

     Wildwood Elementary, Lake Grove Elementary, and Mirror Lake Elementary are being rebuilt with a synchronized planning, design and construction schedule. This means we are developing designs for the three schools with architectural similarities while maintaining each school’s unique character and community identity. 

    What impacts will this have on my neighborhood and traffic in my neighborhood?

     Traffic in the neighborhoods around the schools has been an ongoing challenge. Many in the community expressed worry that without proper focus and attention, the construction, design and operation of the new schools could make things worse, not better.  

    We are aware of these issues and are focused on decreasing traffic impacts wherever possible and improving traffic flows for local residents. With stakeholder and community involvement in the planning process, and specific focus given to providing traffic relief, the new schools in both design and operation should enhance the neighborhood experience. Two regulatory activities will help define strategies. One is the state’s environmental impact review process (SEPA), which will identify the location of traffic impacts on the streets, their sources, and recommended mitigation measures.

    The second regulatory impact is related to zoning requirements.  Zoning requirments regarding site development will also impact traffic issues, landscaping on the site, and after-hours access to the public. The City of Kent will have regulations and codes that must be met, and The City of Kent and Federal Way Public Schools have had preliminary meetings to discuss these projects.

    Currently, there is preliminary work being done that will help us better understand traffic flows, geotechnical concerns, property boundaries, utility locations and environmental hazards. This information will allow those participating in the design phase to better understand the possibilities on this site. Once that work is complete, specific traffic mitigation strategies can be developed to make travel to, from, and around the schools safer and more efficient.  

    What is the square footage of the new buildings, and how many students will be housed in these new schools?

    The 2017 Bond was passed with the promise of building larger elementary schools. In keeping with this commitment, the proposed buildings for Totem Middle School and Star Lake Elementary carry a larger foot print than the current permanent buildings. However, when the 14 portables located near Totem and the two at Star Lake are factored into this equation, the proposed square footage is comparable to what is currently on the site. It was initially planned for designs to be generated around an 800-student middle school and a 600-student elementary school, for a total of 1400 students. However, after receiving community feedback and considering current and projected enrollment numbers, it was determined that Star Lake Elementary will be rebuilt with a capacity of 525 students. This is a total of 1325 students on the site, which is a lower number of students than when Totem, TAFA and Star Lake were all housed on this site. Current enrollment projections reflect a combined population of less than 1,200 through the 2023-24 school year.

    Overcrowded schools are a real concern, now and in the future, and these buildings are being designed to be used for decades. We need to build schools with enough room for the current enrollment, as well as create the additional capacity needed for future residential development in the years to come.  

    What is the process for determining the design and programming of the new buildings? How can I be involved?

    There will be many opportunities for community participation in the design process. During the Pre-Design process, we will collect information about the needs of the school and community.

    During the Design Process, a Design Review Committee (DRC) will be established, consisting of staff, parents and community members. This group will meet regularly to discuss the development of designs for each school. Community forums will be held for review and input on the evolving design. 

    The design will be a culmination of stakeholder input, collected as part of the engagement process in the DRC meetings and the information provided by community members, families, scholars and staff during the pre-design and design phases.

    You’re invited to participate in the following planned engagement opportunities for the remainder of 2018 include:

    • On-site conversations with staff, scholars, parents and community (held in June)
    • Regular community forums; and 
    • SEPA Environmental Process (Fall 2018)

    Will you be rebuilding Totem Middle School and Star Lake Elementary as a K–8 campus?

    Based on community feedback received during the May 8 community meeting, we realize our initial thinking about this site as a K-8 was premature. While some shared spaces may still be part of the final design, the two schools are not being designed as a single K-8.  We are still early in the pre-design phase of these sites, and program design concepts will be further discussed and developed as we progress through the process.

    How will you be communicating with school communities and the neighborhoods surrounding the schools?

    This project will be ongoing for the next 4-5 years, with the planning and design stages consuming the remainder of 2018 and 2019. In that time period, community members will have multiple opportunities to participate in the planning and design as well as general review and comment. We will be using a mixture of traditional communication resources including road signage, reader boards, and general mailings.  We are also actively capturing the electronic contacts of all interested parties and encouraging people to share the postings from the District about planning, design and construction activities.  If you would like to be added to this electronic distribution list, please send your contact information to

    We will also use local media and both the district’s and the schools’ own websites to communicate about meetings, participation opportunities, and construction timelines and impacts. We are developing a monthly communication plan for the duration of the project that will provide regular updates and invitations for participation and comment using multiple communications methods. We are committed to two-way communication processes that are transparent and effective.

    For more information or to answer additional questions, please feel to contact us via email at or call us at 253-945-2000.