01-13-14: School levies address facility, technology needs
01-13-14: School levies address facility, technology needs
Posted on 01/13/2014

Replacing outdated student computers, including more than 500 machines that are nearly a decade old, is among a series of technology improvements proposed in the February 11, 2014 Special Election.

 

The repair or replacement of aging and deteriorating school roofs, windows, and flooring, and energy-efficient improvements to heating, plumbing, and electrical systems at buildings that date as far back as the 1960s, are also outlined in the proposed six-year levy.

 

The School Facility Improvements and Technology Upgrades Levy will be paired on the election ballot with a second measure — a four-year Educational Programs and Operations Replacement Levy — to support teaching and learning in neighborhood schools.

 

The replacement levy is not a new tax. Rather, it renews an existing four-year school levy approved by voters in 2010 and pays for nearly one-quarter of the district’s day-to-day programs and operations.

 

About one in every four employees hired by the district, or a total of about 500 full or part-time staff, is supported with local levy dollars.

 

The Puyallup School District is the ninth largest district in the state and one of the oldest, having educated students since 1854. This year’s enrollment is up by 362 students and is projected to climb by more than 2,500 students in the next 10 years.

 

Technology and facility upgrades

 

The School Facility Improvements and Technology Upgrades Levy (Proposition 2) proposes projects designed to keep buildings functioning and technology current in support of student learning.Image

 

Technology upgrades include replacing or upgrading aging student computers, creating more equity districtwide by installing interactive white boards and mounted projectors where none exist, increasing wireless capacity, and modernizing the district’s computer network.

 

“This world is moving forward, and we can’t be left behind with outdated technology,” said newly elected Puyallup School Board member Kathy Yang. “We must have access and equity for all students.”

 

More than 500 student computers, for example, are eight or nine years old, said Randy Averill, executive director of technology services. The computers were purchased with funds in the voter approved 2004 school bond. Since then, proposed bond measures have failed to reach the required 60 percent supermajority necessary to pass.

 

As a general rule, a computer is up to state standards if it is no more than four years old, Averill said. “After that, it is really falling behind in the technology realm,” he said.

  

Less than half (37 percent) of the nearly 1,200 classrooms in the Puyallup School District are equipped with interactive white boards and projectors, he said. The technology is regularly used to support teaching and learning.

 

The six-year levy would pay for an interactive white board and mounted projector in every classroom districtwide that does not currently have the technology, he said.

ImageImproving wireless capacity is also a critical need, he said. The faster wireless technology will speed up the time it takes for students and teachers, especially at the junior high and high schools, to log on to computers and access learning materials.

 

“When you have 50 to 60 classroom computers trying to log on in the same general area, it becomes a big problem because we have only a single wireless access point designed to accommodate 35 to 40 computers at best,” he said.

 

Averill continued, “Teachers rely on Web based tools to instruct, and that increases demand on the network. Connecting to the network can be very slow and problematic, costing the teacher and students valuable instruction time.”

 

The proposed six-year levy will also expand access to full-day kindergarten districtwide. This year, the district offers a free full-day kindergarten program at Firgrove, Spinning, and Stewart elementary schools.

 

Educators expound on the benefits of a full-day kindergarten program.

 

“It gives twice as much time for students to engage in learning and develop social skills,” said Lisa Nolan, director of instructional leadership.

 

School Board Vice President Pat Donovan, who was re-elected in November to another four-year term, added, “Research and best practices show that children need all-day kindergarten to prepare for the rest of their education.”

 

The levy money would also pay for health, safety, and security upgrades. Specifically, funds would pay to upgrade fire, alarm, sprinkler, and emergency systems; make earthquake safety building improvements; and upgrade school playgrounds to meet safety standards.Image

 

Motion detectors would be improved in entry doors at some schools, for example, to prevent break-ins. Additional cameras and motion detectors would also be funded to monitor high-traffic areas on campuses, said Gary Frentress, director of capital projects.

 

Earthquake safety building improvements are also on the proposed levy project list, as well as painting and sealing the exterior of several schools; making paving and field irrigation improvements; and hooking up to public sewer systems at Brouillet and Ridgecrest elementary schools, and Stahl and Edgemont junior high schools.

 

The School Facility Improvements and Technology Upgrades Levy would provide $46 million over the six-year collection period.

 

Educational programs and operations

 

The four-year Educational Programs and Operations Replacement Levy (Proposition 1) would replace the current school programs and operations levy that expires in 2014.

 

This is not a new tax. Rather, it would renew an existing four-year levy approved by voters in 2010 and which expires in 2014.

 

The replacement levy pays for 24 percent of the school district’s day-to-day programs and operations, including maintaining:

 

• Educational programs and reasonable class sizes.

• Teachers and support staff such as nurses and instructional assistants.

• Textbooks and other classroom materials.

• Music, visual arts, drama, athletic, and other extracurricular programs.

• School safety and security.

• Maintenance at all schools.

• Transportation of students.

 

The state Legislature’s funding formula for basic education falls short of providing all that is required to educate students. To make up the difference, this district, like many others statewide, submits levies to voters to support essential educational programs and acceptable levels of staffing.

 

The Educational Programs and Operations Replacement Levy would provide $49.5 million in 2015. Factoring in 3 percent inflation over the remaining three years, the levy would provide about $51 million in 2016, $52.5 million in 2017, and $54 million in 2018.

 

Cost

 

If both the Educational Programs and Operations Replacement Levy (Proposition 1) and the School Facility Improvements and Technology Upgrades Levy (Proposition 2) are approved by voters, the total increase in tax rate would be an average of 43 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation. The owner of a home valued at $227,000 would pay an estimated $8.13 more per month between 2015 and 2018.