Marietta Community Schools

The proposed school building levy is on the ballot once again this year. Last year’s proposal presented just a single consolidated campus option to taxpayers; however, this years attempt proposes a number of potential options with no firm plan for taxpayers to vote on. My original letter of concern to the editor about this issue was published in the Marietta Times on October 30, 2019. I wanted to add a few items to think about on the 2020 proposal. In a recent article in the Marietta Times, a Marietta City Schools Board member announced that, in the latest levy proposal, the likely traffic issues at the Glendale Road/Colegate Drive intersection had been resolved. How? Was a traffic study or analysis completed? What were the original impacts, and why is it suddenly better now with this proposal?

If the current proposal includes constructing a building at the Washington State Community College Campus, the development costs would still remain the same. We might save a few hundred thousand dollars on the building pad being smaller, but industry professionals still estimate an $8 to $10 million expense for earthwork, roads, drainage, and utilities in very tough terrain.

The public does own about 42 acres at the current High School location and approximately 27 acres of land at the current Middle School location. The aforementioned 27 acres are located in the City’s core and are an advantageous real estate holding for a District located in a town as old as Marietta. Currently, it is publicly owned land for the purpose of a school. One doesn’t frequently run across a sizable parcel of land, located in the City core, still owned by the public. Why is the Middle School property not being considered?

As far as the Middle School is concerned, I believe public pressure resulted in a formal engineering assessment of the Middle School foundation. The work was performed by a reputable engineering firm who determined that the foundation is not in failing condition, and overall, the middle school is a great building. Though the foundation needs some repair, it is in overall good condition. In listening to contractors, building trades people, local developers and sporting folks, the Middle School gym is a great facility and that one would never be able to replicate as some of those building materials are not available on the market today. In fact, the building was perceived as new by one on my colleague engineers who went there as a student as it had been rehabilitated in the early nineties. Being 2020, maybe it’s time to rehabilitate it again and get another 40 years of service out of it.

I realize that we have lost half of our student population in the Marietta City School District since 1980, down from about 5,500 students to the roughly 2,500 the District serves today. If we must construct new school buildings, we do have the two properties mentioned above that could be utilized.

I understand that we currently have postsecondary classes available for the Marietta City School District students with Washington State Community College and Marietta College. Those partnerships will remain regardless of campus locations. If needed, we could probably apply for and utilize Federal Transit Authority (FTA) grants to add busses and routes for students versus spending $8 to $10 million for development costs that are avoidable. And are these options now more available online?

Again, let’s take the time sit down and get this right. Let’s engage with the public and build a plan that 70% of the electorate will support. At this time no one knows what that final plan would look like because it’s not been pursued in an open public working format. Our community’s educational and financial future is at stake, so it’s paramount to provide schools that truly fit our community’s needs rather than adopting a proposal that provides a lot of “maybes” but no solid plan forward.

William McElfresh



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