Edmonds School Board approves budget increase for clean-up project, hears update from equity work group

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The Edmonds School District Board of Directors has approved a budget increase for an environmental clean-up project on a piece of land the district hopes to sell.

At its June 11 business meeting, the school board voted 4-0 to OK a $200,000 increase in the capital projects budget to remove methane contamination from the site’s soil. Board President Diana White — who left the Tuesday meeting early — was not present for the vote.

The increase brings the project budget to $485,000. The initial budget for $285,000 was approved at the school board’s April 9 meeting. The project is being funded by the property tax revenue portion of the capital projects fund.

The 9-acre property — located near Alderwood Mall on Alderwood Mall Boulevard — is the district’s former maintenance and transportation site, which was relocated in 2016. While monitoring earlier contaminants in the soil, the Department of Ecology determined the methane gas levels on the property were above acceptable standards.

While working with EHS-International — a Seattle-based environmental consulting firm — to perform a soil-mixing test, the district discovered more contaminated soil on the site. The district has hired Clearcreek Contractors for the clean-up project.

In other business, the board of directors heard an update from the Equity in Funding Work Group that has been looking at budget impacts from unpaid fines and fees in the district. The group has been working to resolve inequality in areas like school fees, fines and ASB card-related costs.

Recently, the group adopted a standardized supply list for elementary school students, as discussed at the Dec. 11 business meeting. The work group initially concentrated on adopting standard user fees for high schools and now it is proposing the school board adopt a “no class fee” policy.

According to data compiled by the group, the average fund balance of an unpaid ASB account is $2,800. Of the 440 separate ASB accounts in the district, 24 have a fund balance greater than $10,000, while 246 accounts have less than $100. School Board President White — who was also a member of the working group — said inconsistent fees across the district have impacted student opportunities in high school. Schools with higher poverty levels and fewer resources to help raise money are often affected the most, she added.

“As we know there are some schools that have really robust PTAs, PTOs and booster clubs,” she said. “And then there’s other schools that do not have the same support.”

For many high school students in the district, an ASB card is a requirement for students to have access to certain classes, club activities and parking permits. On average, an ASB card costs a student $50, but not all students are able to afford that.

To solve the inequality, White said improved training and education is the first step. She also suggested other solutions like schools creating partnerships with each other to help fundraise for other schools that do not have strong booster support.

“There’s all this opportunity for school partnerships,” she said.

Also attending the Tuesday meeting were Meadowdale High School students speaking on behalf of their drama teacher Katie Powell-Mitchell, who was one of the 25 teachers laid off due to the $17.7 million budget deficit hitting the district in the 2019-20 school year. Both current and former students said Mitchell had a positive impact on their life.

“Katie Powell-Mitchell goes above and beyond the average teacher,” said Elliott Greenleaf, a Meadowdale High School senior. “Not only can she be often found comforting students through troubles with family and friends, she has high compassion and understanding for her students.”

The Meadowdale High School students came with signs to show support both for Mitchell and the drama program, which some students said is at risk of disappearing should Mitchell not return in the fall.

–Story and photos by Cody Sexton

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