Task Force

Task Force Calendar 18/19

  • All meetings will be held at 5:30 p.m. at the Pierce County Skills Center unless otherwise noted.


    • September 18, 2018
    • October 18, 2018
    • October 25, 2018
    • November 15, 2018
    • December 13, 2018
    • January 10, 2019
    • January 31, 2019
    • February 21, 2019
    • March 12, 2019 (School Board Meeting, 7 p.m. at ESC)


Task Force Updates

  • March 12, 2019: Final Recommendations

    At the March 12 School Board meeting, Jay McIsaac from the community-led Long Range Task Force presented the group’s final recommendations to the Board after months and months of hard work.

    This is the same Task Force that made the recommendations for the bond package that was finally passed (on its third try) by voters this February.

    After the bond failed for the first time in February 2018, the Task Force reconvened to study alternative options to a successful bond that would help alleviate the overcrowded conditions our schools are facing.

    McIsaac was part of the Task Force from the beginning, and said even though the bond had passed, the group’s recommendations would still be valuable for the Board, especially if growth in our area continues at the rapid pace it is currently at.

    “We may need it for future use,” McIsaac said. “Or there may be other districts that want to use this information if they’re facing a similar crisis.”

    Task Force Recommendations

    In their full report, the Task Force laid out options the district could consider for future use.

    High Schools

    Implement double shifting schedule at least at one high school. Before implementation, the School Board should consider the following:

    • Establish clear criteria for determining which students and teachers would be assigned to early/late shifts
    • Be transparent about the criteria and process used to select the high school(s) that transition
    • To maintain equity, look into transitioning all Bethel high schools or making the high school that transitions a school of choice
    • To improve gym access for students, implement model at a high school that shares a campus with a middle school, allowing late shift students to use the middle school gym while athletic programs use the high school gym for practice

    Elementary Schools

    The Task Force recommends the School Board consider the benefits and challenges of the following two options to determine which one should be implemented

    Option 1: Elementary school grades change to K-4 and middle school grades change to 5–8 except for Elk Plain School of Choice which will remain as is

    Option 2: Change one middle school to an elementary school

    You can read the Task Force’s full report to the Board by clicking here.

    The Long Range Task Force consisted of members of the Pierce County Land Use Commission, retired educators, administrators, parents, teachers and longtime community members.

    Board President Brenda Rogers publicly thanked the group for the work they had accomplished. She also encouraged the members to stay involved with the district and their community, “They say no good deed goes unpunished, so you’ll be hearing from us again,” she said with a laugh.


    February 22, 2019: Final Meeting

    The Long Range Task Force met for the final time this week and, as you would expect, the meeting began with a conversation about Bethel’s recently passed School Construction Bond — an event that will solve many of the issues the Task Force was looking for alternatives to in case of the bond’s failure.

    But just because bond passed doesn’t mean the work of the Task Force is moot.

    “Your work has not been in vain,” said Superintendent Tom Seigel. “It will help this board, and future boards, who find themselves in similar situations.”

    Depending on how many new students we grow in the next couple of years, the School Board may need a short-term fix as they wait for the construction of the new schools the bond will fund to be completed.

    Other districts may also find value in the work of the Task Force if they also fall short of the state’s 60% supermajority requirement and need alternative solutions for housing students.

    “Your act as citizens engaged in what’s going on is deeply appreciated,” said Seigel. “You made a difference. You really did.”

    The School Board will be reviewing the bond construction calendar at the School Board meeting on Tuesday, February 26. The district’s priority is to relieve the overcrowding at the elementary and high schools first, so Elementary #18 and the new Bethel High School will lead the way.

    The Task Force will present their final recommendations to the School Board in March.


    December 13, 2018: The devil is in the details

    At this week’s Long Range Facilities Task Force meeting, community members gathered to discuss their final three options before they begin the process of making their final recommendation to the school board in March 2019.

    Multi-track, year-round schools
    The Los Angeles and San Diego Unified School Districts, as well as some districts in Hawaii are using multi-track, year-round school schedules.

    District tend to opt for one of two multi-track calendars:

    1. Quarter system, where students go to school for 60 days and then are off for 20 days
    2. Trimester system, where students go to school for 45 days and then are off for 15 days

    When our district used a multi-track, year-round calendar from 1974–1981, we used the trimester system of 45/15.

    The Task Force focused part of their discussion on some of the expected challenges from a multi-track calendar. These included daycare, athletics and special education programs.

    That said, this model would give our district a 25% capacity gain in the buildings, which would significantly help with the overcrowding we are seeing. It might even be enough to reduce class sizes and get kids out of portables.

    Staffing, however, would be challenge. Not only would more staff be needed, but convincing people to come work for the only district in Washington state that was on a year-round calendar could be a tough task.

    “80% of our teachers do not live in the Bethel School District,” board member Brenda Rogers said at the meeting. “If they have children in another district and are teaching in Bethel, that could create some serious scheduling problems for them.”

    As far as the academic impact on students, there wasn’t a clear consensus in the research the group did. They didn’t hear of any lack of quality in the educational outcomes, but no one said there was improvement either.

    “There is not a loss in learning, as long as you have well-designed lessons,” said Dr. Jennifer Bethman, who completed her Master’s thesis in alternative school scheduling.

    The Task Force also had questions about the impact the year-round calendar would have on our facilities, and a bigger question was raised about financial support from the state to help make the transition.

    “The state’s model for funding is based on a traditional calendar,” said Superintendent Tom Seigel. “We would be the only district in the state that’s on a year-round calendar.”

    Double shifting
    The Task Force also discussed two different types of double shifting.

    1. Two shifts per day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. For example, K-2 goes in the morning and 3–5 goes in the afternoon.
    2. A daily schedule, where one shift goes Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and the second shift goes Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.

    Either way, the calendar would have to be adjusted to make sure each shift met the state’s minimum required instructional hours.

    Bethel Junior High double shifted for a time back when Cougar Mountain was being built. Jennifer Bethman was principal at the time and said one of the struggles was teachers having to share classrooms.

    “It sounds like an easy thing, to run two schools, but it was a real challenge when we did that,” she said.

    Some of the major concerns raised about double shifting had to do with safety for the early morning and later evening shifts, especially in winter. Questions were also raised about finding time for after-school sports and activities; as well as transportation.

    Transportation came up frequently during the evening. For double shifting it was anticipated that the district would have to buy ⅓ more buses to meet the demand, assuming they could find enough drivers.

    Turning elementary & middle schools to K-8 schools
    Districts in Colorado and Louisiana have gone to a K-8 model, including Boulder Valley, where Tom Siegel was superintendent before he came to Bethel in 2001.

    Seigel talked about the success of the K-8 model when the schools were built for it from the ground up. “We don’t have that luxury here in Bethel,” he said.

    Our buildings would have to be modified in order to make the new system work, adding science labs to the elementary schools, and kindergarten-sized bathrooms to the middle schools. Gymnasiums would also have to be configured to give all students across the district equitable access.

    There were some safety concerns with the K-8 model, and questions surrounding extra-curricular activities and sports for the different age groups.

    More to come in January
    The devil is in the details, as they say, and after a long discussion, all three alternative schedules advanced to the next round and will be discussed further when the Task Force meets again on January 10, 2019.


    November 15, 2018: ‘Are we here to simply meet the minimum standards for education?’

    While the Seahawks were squaring off with the Packers last Thursday night, the Long Range Facilities Task Force was once again meeting to discuss the future of our district in the event that our School Construction Bond does not meet the 60% requirement.

    Votes are still being tallied, but as of November 19 the bond was failing with 59.19% approval. The final count will be officially certified on November 27.

    The Task Force dove right into the controversial idea of moving all of Bethel’s fifth-grade students up into the middle schools, which would create more capacity in our overcrowded elementary schools. By comparison, our middle schools have just enough room to hold all the fifth graders before they are at or over capacity.

    University Place School District uses this system, and it seems to be working well for them. However there were questions about whether fifth graders would stay in one class all day, or would change classes like the middle schoolers do. Concerns were also raised about our current curriculum — which is designed for K-5 — and the impact on vertical team teaching at the elementary level.

    Like many of the overcrowding solutions the Task Force is exploring, this shifts the problem instead of fixing the problem. But the only real solution — building news schools — was most likely defeated by voters last month.

    The Task Force also looked at the option of leasing available retail space, such as the old Kmart building on Pacific avenues. Superintendent Tom Seigel reported to the group that getting these retail locations up to the building codes for an educational space would cost more than it would to simply tear the building down and build a school from scratch.

    “Trust me, we’ve looked at every available space around here,” he said.

    The Task Force then concluded their evening with a discussion of the future of Elk Plain School of Choice.

    The idea on the table was to change Elk Plain K-8 from a “choice school” into a regular elementary school, with its own boundaries. Currently the school accepts students from all over the district for its arts-focused programming.

    A change like that would help nearby elementary schools feel an immediate impact, pulling roughly 200 students from the overcrowded Clover Creek and Shining Mountain elementary schools.

    But Elk Plain serves a very special type of student, and is one of the unique options our district provides for students in our community. Other programs include the Cambridge program at Bethel High and the Spanish Dual Language Immersion Program and Thompson.

    So the Task Force was asked to weigh the ramifications of losing the program, and the impact that would have on the students who were currently thriving in it.

    As the meeting wore on, one local parent had a question for everyone involved in the process: “Are we here to simply meet the minimum standards for education, or are we here to help students grow, succeed and excel?”

    The next meeting is on December 13. Meetings are open to the public.


    October 25, 2018 - November Bond Election looms as Task Force weighs alternate options

    The community-led Long Range Facilities Task Force met again this week to continue their discussion of alternative options to a successful November School Construction Bond to help solve the overcrowding issues our district is facing.

    Before they began their conversations around the evening’s possible solutions to overcrowding — which included changing a middle school to an elementary school and turning all elementary and middle schools into a K-8 model — they examined data about portable classrooms in the district.

    Currently our district has over 200 portable classrooms in use.

    Double portables — containing two classrooms — cost approximately $150,000 or $85 per square foot. But when you add in the cost of site preparation; utility and technology connections; fire and intrusion alarm wiring; student furniture; permits, architects and engineering time; and aluminum ramps, the cost jumps to approximately $600,000.

    Even with the high cost, there are other reasons an infinite supply of portables isn’t a long-term solution. Currently, there is only room to site 16 more portables in the entire district. Once those spaces are filled, the only remaining option would be to place portables on sports fields, which would have a huge impact on sports; not to mention the additional demand those students would put on the common areas (including bathrooms) in the main buildings.

    The Task Force weighed many alternative options, looking at long term solutions versus near term. Some options on their own wouldn’t solve the district’s overcrowding problem, but a selection of smaller changes, could add up to be a larger fix.

    The idea of utilizing classrooms at adjacent school districts fell by the wayside, as all our neighboring districts had been contacted and had no space to spare. They were all dealing with crowded conditions as well, but many had recently passed bonds and were already building new schools.

    The Task Force will meet again after the November 6 election.


    October 18, 2018 - Task Force explores multi-track, year-round school calendar

    The Long Range Facilities Task Force met again this week to continue planning for alternate options if the November School Construction Bond does not pass.

    Year-round, multi-track schools and “double shifting” were discussed at length, along with the pros and cons of distance learning, and using the Bethel Learning Center or local colleges for classroom space.

    As part of their research on alternative school schedules, the Task Force watched a video about what a multi-track, year-round school schedule looks like in the Washoe County School District in Nevada that has had to implement it to “relieve severe overcrowding."

    The Task Force worked to define their concerns about the alternative schedules and will conduct interviews with other districts that are currently using, or have implemented the schedules in the past.

    This was just the beginning of the discussions on multi-track, year-round schools and double shifting. Both will be discussed at every Task Force meeting going forward. Other topics scheduled for discussion at future meetings include:

    October 25

    • Change middle school to elementary school
    • Partner with adjacent school district
    • Use parts of middle schools for elementary
    • Turn all elementary schools into K-8

    November 15

    • Turn all middle schools into grades 5–8 or 4–8
    • Repurpose commercial site
    • Close Elk Plain School of Choice and change to elementary
    • Double Shifting option: A&B days

    The Task Force will meet again next week, and then will reconvene after the election. Even if the November bond passes, the Task Force will continue as the need is urgent and a school will take about three years to design, permit and build.


     September 19, 2018 - Looking for the best of the worst case scenarios

    For many of our students, school starts pretty early. As winter approaches and the days get shorter, our headlights pick up the silhouettes of kids waiting at bus stops in the early morning hours. But what if school started even earlier?
    Pajama Day, every day
    “Double Shifting” is one idea currently being explored by the Long Range Facilities Task Force to help combat overcrowding in the event the November bond does not pass.
    In a double shifting model, half of a school’s student population would attend from roughly 6 a.m. to noon, and the other half would attend from noon until 6 p.m. In this scenario, you can only imagine what time the buses would have to roll to start picking kids up in the morning. One parent said, “In my house it would be like pajama day, every day.”
    “Blue Light Special” on education
    In preparation for the first Task Force meeting, district administrators prepared a list of possible educational models that would help take the pressure off of our overcrowded schools. With a successful November bond being “Plan A,” this list of “Plan B” scenarios included everything from multi-track, year-round schools to the idea of leasing local commercial spaces to use as classrooms. Specifically mentioned was the old Kmart building on Pacific Avenue and 176th.
    As the first meeting began, Task Force members added their own ideas to the mix, including having elementary schools utilize available classroom space at nearby middle schools, using property at other districts, and online learning options.
    That was followed by a spirited discussion that included a brainstorming session looking at potential impacts and pitfalls of each of the scenarios in question. The Task Force left no stone unturned, requesting more information on the impact to academics, staff recruitment and retention, maintenance, transportation, food services, traffic, and family schedules under each proposed model, as well as the financial impact on the district.
    Another big topic that was broached was the impact on athletic programs under the new models, specifically in regards to year-round schools and double shifting.
    The next task force meeting will be held in mid-October. Prior to that, the district will be gathering information and finding answers to many of the questions proposed by the Task Force so they can continue their discussions and decision making as they move forward, planning for the worst.

    September 16, 2018

    Members of the Long Range Facilities Task Force will reconvene this week to study future options to ease the overcrowding in our schools if November's School Construction Bond does not pass.


    Former members of the Task Force will join new members, selected from a recent application process which resulted in an overwhelming amount of community interest, due to the parental impact of the options being considered.


    Specifically the Task Force will look at multi-track year-round schools, double shifting, repurposing commercial sites into schools, leasing classroom space at adjacent districts, turning a middle school into an elementary school, and converting Elk Plain K-8 back to a K-5 configuration to free up space for more elementary students.


    The Task Force will analyze the impact of these options, both financially and otherwise, on the district. This will include the impact on transportation, food services, maintenance, building capacity, staffing, and the impact on the community – daycare, family schedules, vacations, etc.


    After their first meeting we will be sure to update you on their progress.