School Board Delays Process to Purchase Highlands Property

ISD New Elementary School Issaquah Highlands

By Nina Milligan, Highlands Council, Communications Manager

Saturday, May 5th Update from Issaquah School District: https://www.issaquah.wednet.edu/news-details/2018/05/01/highlands-property-acquisition-for-a-new-elementary-school—update-and-discussion-from-april-25-school-board-meeting-available-on-podcast 

Referring to the safety of the children, the Issaquah School Board decided to hold off last night on voting on Resolution 1113 which would have directed the Superintendent to “expeditiously” pursue a purchase and sale agreement for land the City of Issaquah owns on the hill adjacent to Swedish Hospital and Westridge in Issaquah Highlands. Since last summer, the School District has been working towards buying the property for a new elementary school.

Superintendent Ron Thiele explained the urgency by saying there were 1,200 K-5 students in the highlands already.

As the potential purchase of the property is being considered by the School District, the City of Issaquah is also considering their side of the deal, whether to sell the property (which it recently purchased from King County) or to keep it for other purposes.

Both parties seem to agree that there are four issues about siting a school on the property that require research and resolution. They are referred to as traffic, tree retention, slope stability and view shed.

“I have concerns,” Superintendent Thiele cautioned as he described results of preliminary studies his office has conducted on the property. Studies of slope stability and tree health returned with concerning details.

Next, the School District will direct their consultants to take 200-foot-deep soil samples to get more information about the slope stability. “We are literally and figuratively going deeper into this,” Thiele chuckled.

Superintendent Thiele went on to suggest that the School Board “table this resolution at this time” and to “slow down, take our time,” so that they could gather more information about the property.

School Board President, Anne Moore affirmed, “We have reason to believe we need more information before we proceed.”

Highlands resident and member of the School Board, Lisa Callan agreed, “I am in support of holding off on the resolution.”

Eventually saying “We might still get data that allows us to move forward,” Superintendent Thiele redirected the tone. “We haven’t walked away yet.”

The School District expects to have the final geo-technical report about the slope in time to present the findings to the Issaquah City Council for their work session on May 14th at Council Chambers. The City Council will conduct a Public Hearing in June regarding their decision whether or not to sell the property.

The District wishes to open a new elementary school in the highlands in 2020.