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School Construction Lunch & Learn Webinar

If you were not able to attend the Superintendent's Lunch & Learn Construction Webinar on April 25, 2023, watch the video recording and read the questions & answers.

Have more questions related to construction in our district? Email


Questions & Answers from the presentation

Q: Why doesn’t the state of Washington fund school construction?

A: We are fortunate that our community has historically supported our school construction needs by passing ballot measures to meet the need. There is an active lawsuit regarding the lack of state funding for school construction because many communities cannot pass a bond to replace old buildings. The outcome of this case is something that may impact all school districts.

Q: When will the next elementary school be constructed?

A: Based on our six-year facilities plan, which is updated annually, we do not need a new elementary school. When a facility is under modernization, we can add to it to bring students housed in portables into the main facility. We have also constructed 8-plexes, which are nice classrooms that often house two grade levels at the elementary level.

Q: What are secure entrances?

A: Secure entrances are vestibules at the entryway of school buildings that visitors must walk into upon arrival. It requires visitors to visit the front office before entering the school. Front office staff can see the entrance from their work station and unlock and lock the secure entrance as needed. We have installed secure entrances at several schools and are working on several more this summer. We have to design these entrances differently for each school’s unique configuration. We work to ensure both safety and a warm and inviting building.

Q: How do you decide when schools get upgrades?

We think about several things when deciding when we will modernize a school: the age of the school, student enrollment, and ensuring we have facilities that support quality programs across the district. We sometimes need to do interim maintenance on things such as roofs, mechanical and electrical systems until it is time for a complete modernization. We work closely with our Facilities Advisory Committee to provide recommendations.

Q: What does NTPS do to make our buildings eco-friendly?

A: We are proud to be a 2023 Thurston Green Business! We work hard to make our facilities environmentally friendly. We are installing LED lighting with better controls to turn lights off when idle and are adding digital controls on mechanical systems that bring in outside air to heat and cool schools more efficiently. We have recycling programs at every site and student-led composting programs at some schools. During the River Ridge High School modernization, we are preparing the electrical system and structure for solar power so we can add it in the future.

Q: What kind of Career and Technical Education spaces do we have at each of our high schools, and is there more we could do in our buildings to support skilled trades?

A: We know that some of our high schools are better equipped to provide for skilled trades such as welding and auto-mechanic maintenance; this topic was a recent focus for our Board’s spring Community Conversation (see Board Determination). As we remodel buildings, we establish a standard for spaces across the district and do our best to ensure equitable spaces for programs.

Q: How is the district ensuring education and activities continue uninterrupted during the construction at River Ridge?

A: Providing a quality education while modernizing a campus is essential! The River Ridge project will create a more cohesive, modern, and connected campus. We have managed other major construction projects at our secondary schools, most recently at Komachin Middle School and North Thurston High School, and Timberline High School before that. We are working on a plan to provide services for River Ridge students over the summer. We have begun bringing in the 34 portable classrooms supporting student learning at River Ridge during construction.

Q: When will we see Nisqually Middle School parking lot improvements? 

A: We are finishing the design and then will get a contractor on board to start the work. Part of the 2020 bond promise was safety and security; this is a good example of how we use bond dollars to achieve that promise. The goal is to separate bus and vehicle traffic and move vehicles more quickly off Steilacoom Road during busy times of the school day.

Q: How does NTPS ensure we stay on time and on budget with our construction projects?

A: We build in contingency plans with our initial timelines; even with supply chain issues since the pandemic, we have been able to stay within our budget and timeline for major construction projects.

Q. How many children would be enrolled at the proposed early learning center and who would be eligible?

We envision up to 600 students. Eligibility for services would be similar to our current integrated preschool programs (which include students with special education needs and typically developing students). We could also house some Future Ready Kindergarten space there. There are far more children eligible for preschool services than we have slots for in our community, and we want to be an even bigger part of the solution!

Q. How do you decide on the external design for a building and how it fits into the community and neighborhood?

A. We first look at the site—the size of the site tells us a lot about things like how many stories the building needs to be. We ensure the community provides input on the design. And building codes also drive design, such as the number of windows required. We want our buildings to be safe, warm, and welcoming places!

Q: How long does it take to pay for a bond?

For a 30-year bond, it is paid back over that time period; however, the amount collected and paid per year is designed to predict future capital construction needs. So, the structure of the payment schedule reduces to provide for additional capacity based on the next bond the district expects to run. As an example, NTPS is on an eight-year bond ballot measure cycle. So our current bond steps down to provide capacity for the next bond while paying off the bond in the amount of time established.  In 2020 the voters approved up to $4.96 per $1,000 of assessed property value, and we are below that amount due to a lot of growth in our district. When more people construct homes and businesses in the district, the taxes are shared over more taxpayers and that reduces the rate.