Yelm Community Schools hosted a bond discussion Monday night at Yelm Middle School to highlight expenses and a possible way forward if a bond were approved by voters in a February special election.

A citizen advisory committee, made up of parents, superintendents and construction experts, said it was also possible to keep the tax rate below the 2018 threshold of 8.04 percent, but that variables such as changes in property assessments could changes this. 

A rough estimate, which includes heavy remodelling of Yelm Middle School and Southworth Elementary, as well as district-wide safety revisions, puts the total cost at around $96.2 million.

Since the failure of a $76 million bond last February, the committee said it has been busy obtaining feedback from voters and people within the school district. The committee attended walkthroughs of the buildings and engaged the community with an online survey.

“Our goal was really to engage the community,” said Brian Wharton, Yelm Community School superintendent. “What is it that we absolutely have to have with respect to our aging facility and, number two, when we talk about safety, what do we really mean.”

Teri Pablo, communications director for Yelm Community Schools, said an online survey in October narrowed the district’s decision to focus on safety concerns. If the bond passes, key card systems and camera systems would be installed districtwide. 

Yelm Middle School and Southworth Elementary were chosen for heavy remodelling due to safety concerns with the buildings. Kasey Wyatt, construction project manager, said the two schools also qualify for School Construction Assistance Program funding (SCAP) that could partially fund construction costs because of the age of the buildings. 

About $13 million of Yelm Middle Schools’ estimated $54.6 million renovation could be covered by SCAP, Pablo said. Roughly $10 million of SCAP funds could cover Southworth’s $33.2 renovation. 

Throughout the last four years, the cost to renovate Yelm Middle School has more than doubled, the committee said. This was due mostly to the high demand of construction because of the economy. 

Mike McLaughlin, with Citizens for Yelm Schools, said despite the rise it’s still important to pass the bond sooner rather than later.

“It’s a little bit bigger than the last one, but it gets done what has to get done,” McLaughlin said. Another forum with the citizen advisory committee is scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 13 at Yelm High School. 

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