Cracks in the tennis court are a safety hazard. Photo by Marcy Stamper

Cracks in the tennis court are a safety hazard. Photo by Marcy Stamper

By Marcy Stamper

After three months of study, the task force that has been assessing facilities needs at the Methow Valley School District is recommending spending $4.5 million on maintenance and upgrades in the district’s schools and grounds and another $1 million on school buses and smaller vehicles.

The task force, composed of two dozen community members, staff and students, has prepared a list of the most urgent repairs after touring the campus and inviting input from the public. The group is recommending maintenance and upgrades to all three schools and the bus barn, along with repairs to athletic facilities.

To pay for these improvements and repairs, the task force is suggesting putting two separate levies to voters in November, one for the facilities improvements and the other for transportation. The task force estimates that the $4.5 million capital facilities levy would add 87 cents to property tax bills per $1,000 of assessed valuation. It would be spread over four years.

The $1 million transportation and vehicle-fund levy would add another 39 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation. By state law, transportation levies can run for only two years, according to the district.

The current tax payments dedicated to schools in the Methow Valley School District are $1.72 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, for a maintenance and operations levy and capital-projects bonds. If approved, the two levies would bring that to $2.98 per $1,000 of valuation, or an additional $252 on the annual tax bill for a $200,000 property.

The levy questions would be separate—voters could approve both, just one, or neither.

Repairs recommended

The task force is proposing a $1.5 million expenditure at Methow Valley Elementary School to fix the heat and insulation system in the gym, replace the flooring throughout the building, add a safety notification system throughout the school, and to repair part of the roof. The group is also recommending upgrades to the school’s technology infrastructure.

At Liberty Bell High School, the task force is suggesting another $1.5 million to replace the flooring, repair cracked sidewalks, install temperature controls for the room that houses computer servers for the entire district, and to upgrade equipment in the weight room.

The Independent Learning Center (ILC) and Twisp bus barn would get $250,000 worth of improvements. The ILC would get upgrades to its technology resources and new storage that would make better use of the existing space.

The task force recommends removing the wooden garage at the bus barn, which it says interferes with use of the repair bays.

Cracks in the tennis courts and track at the main campus, which present safety issues, would be repaired. The district would also update the playground at the elementary school so that it complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act and provides additional opportunities for all children. 

The task force is also recommending a new soccer field that could be used by students and community members, alleviating conflicts with the football and track programs, which share the current field. The athletic upgrades would cost $1.25 million.

All schools would get new classroom furniture and the two kitchens would get attention for safety issues.

Both the bus garage area and the buses themselves have been determined to need attention. Photo by Marcy Stamper

Both the bus garage area and the buses themselves have been determined to need attention. Photo by Marcy Stamper

New buses

In addition to the facilities improvements, the task force is recommending spending another $1 million to buy six propane-powered buses over the next two years, as well as three 10-passenger vans and three cars so that the district can transport smaller groups without using buses. The buses in the existing fleet are an average of 10 years old, meaning that the district spends $30,000 to $40,000 each year on repair and maintenance, much of which is not funded by the state because of the age of the buses, according to the district.

After gathering input from the public, Superintendent Tom Venable will review the final proposal and make a recommendation to the school board, which will decide at its July 26 meeting whether to ask voters to approve the levies—as recommended, or with adjustments.

A detailed description of the proposal was sent to all box holders with the school district’s newsletter, MV Pride, this week. It is also available on the district’s website at methow.org.

The school district is soliciting feedback on the proposals at a public meeting on Wednesday, July 16, from 6 to 7 p.m. in the Methow Valley Elementary School library. People can also provide their reactions via the district’s website.