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Portable-heavy Puyallup needs voters’ bond measure support

Post by TNT Editorial Board / The News Tribune on Jan. 26, 2013 at 5:26 pm |
January 25, 2013 5:36 pm

This editorial will appear in Monday’s print edition.

One reason many people move to Puyallup is because of its highly regarded schools, which boast high on-time graduation rates and innovative programs.

But Puyallup’s dirty little secret is that about one-fifth of its 20,000 students are consigned to spend all or part of their day in the district’s 220 portable classrooms, many of which are hidden behind schools and largely invisible to passers-by. Puyallup has more portables than any district in the state – even though it’s only the ninth largest.

Portables can be a useful way to deal with student population growth spurts. But they’re inefficient, costly and not meant to be part of a long-term solution. Portables cost more to heat, cool and maintain, and they have only about a fifth the life span of a school building. Many have no bathrooms, and security – a growing concern for many parents – is hard to provide in the sometimes far-flung campus “portable farms.”

Passage of the district’s $279.6 million bond Feb. 12 won’t get rid of all the portables, but it will start making a dent in the number. District officials say it would allow them to discontinue using about 90 portables.

The bond measure, which requires 60 percent approval to pass, is badly needed not just to accommodate current students but also to help prepare for expected growth. By the 2017-18 school year, the district projects 1,163 more elementary students, 324 fewer junior high students and 506 more high school students. It’s only a matter of time before a fourth comprehensive high school is needed.

Among the things the bond would do: replace or remodel four elementary schools to accommodate 750 students each, make repairs and improvements to three other elementaries, add classrooms to all three comprehensive high school, purchase computer equipment and equalize technology access throughout the district.

The cost would be about $148 per year to the owner of a $200,000 home. But maintaining the quality of Puyallup schools and preparing for future growth – so important to property value –  is a wise investment.

Even more important is providing a safe, welcoming environment for children to learn and prepare for future careers. Why should they have to carry their lunch trays in the rain to a portable classroom? Or brave the elements to get to a bathroom? Or not have equal access to computer technology with students in newer schools?

The district has been a good steward of taxpayer money, refinancing existing long-term debt to save $23.2 million. Puyallup voters rejected bond requests in 2007 and 2009. They should support this one and start getting rid of the blasted portables.

Students  sound  off
Students at Puyallup, Rogers and Emerald Ridge high schools created an imaginative video, “Follow the apple,” asking for voter support of the Feb. 12 bond measure. Go to youtube/TGRAmA4TqTg.

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