More than four dozen trees around Cedar Way Elementary School will be cut down starting on Monday, June 27.
An arborist told planners with the school district that about half a dozen of those trees are diseased and could put the school in danger during a windstorm–but that is not the main reason the 49 trees need to come down. The district is removing the trees to make way for a larger driveway and drop-off area to better accommodate vehicle and pedestrian traffic. Many of the trees to be removed are 50 feet tall or taller.
However, nearly 150 new, smaller trees will be planted in their place.
District Spokeswoman Debbie Joyce Jakala said the tree removal is the first step to improve access to the school.
“This is one of several schools in the district that was built in the 50s, when the primary way kids got to school was walking,” Jakala said. “Now, regardless of how close kids live to school, the norm is for a parent to drive them and drop them off, or they take the bus.”
The improvements coming to Cedar Way are similar to those that the district has already made at Hilltop, Brier, Lynnwood and Sherwood elementary schools. The project is a part of the 2014 bond measure passed by voters.
“The essential part of this is to bring more parent drop-off space,” Project Manager Nick Chou said.
Right now, it is common for Cedar Way parents line up along 39th Avenue West 15 minutes before school gets out.
“That is not okay with the traffic code,” Chou said. “The improvements should keep traffic moving, and improve things for neighbors. The mission is to bring more cars in.”
The new plans will include a larger area for parents to drop off and pick up their children, a designated staff parking area and a bus drop-off zone with the proper turning radius.
The project also includes adding an additional sidewalk along 39th Avenue West, so kids walking to school can enter the building without crossing the street.
The plans will not increase the school’s footprint–only accessibility to the drop-off area.
“We are trying to accommodate what we have, and make it better,” Chou said.
The plan went through an extensive review with the City of Mountlake Terrace. City officials asked for the district to replace each of the 49 trees they take down with three new ones. Chou said the plans for the new drop-off area were very strategic to incorporate the 147 new trees.
Work on the project begins on Monday, June 25. The trees will all likely be removed by the end of next week. The new entry area will be complete by Aug. 21.
–Story and photos by Natalie Covate