Highline School Board set to approve $228 million operating budget

By Eric Mathison

The Highline School Board is expected to approve July 9 a $227.5 million general operating fund budget for the 2014-2015 school year.

With projected revenues up because of higher enrollment and increased state money, the district will add programs to address its ambitious new strategic plan.

To help meet its goal of having students perform at grade level by third grade, the district plans to hire 21 additional teachers to reduce class sizes in kindergarten and first grade. $60,000 will be budgeted for additional initiatives.

For middle school students, the district will launch a middle school international baccalaureate program at Pacific Middle in Des Moines. Neighboring Mt. Rainier High currently offers a baccalaureate program.

Free tuition to the Camp Waskowitz outdoor education program will be available for sixth-graders moving from elementary to middle schools.

To increase high-school graduation rates, administrators plan to add four “success deans” to the secondary schools.

Nearly eight new full-time positions will be added in secondary schools to deal with students who may be at risk of being suspended from school. The district has adopted a goal of having no out-of-school suspensions. Teachers have complained about increased difficulty in maintaining classroom order this year under the new policy.

The board is also set to approve an $80.75 million capitol projects budget. The budget is based on voters passing a proposed $385 million construction bond measure in November.

The bond would fund the rebuilding of Highline High and Des Moines Elementary as well as the building of two new middle schools.

The district will hold a public hearing on the budget before the board’s vote. The hearing is June 25, 5 p.m. at district headquarters, 15675 Ambaum Blvd. S.W.