School bond set for May; amount unknown

Frustrations are evident, even among some board members.

February is too soon to put a proposed capital facilities bond and technology levy before the voters, the Bainbridge Island school board decided Thursday.

But the bond will be on the ballot in May. They promised.

“One-hundred percent sure,” board president Susan Sivitz said.

From now until March, the board will hold a rigorous series of public meetings to determine exactly how much money they will need and how it will be spent.

At the same time, board members will create a 10-year plan for improvements, so the public will see “the big picture” when future boards seek public money for improvements down the road.

The estimated numbers – $40 million for the bond and $6 million for the technology levy – could very well change in the process, board members said.

Some parents and teachers who have advised the board for more than a year said they were dismayed by the postponement, and they weren’t alone.

“I just have to say I am really frustrated. In May it will have been a full year since the (facilities review) committee reported back to us,” said Bruce Weiland, former board chair, adding, “personally I’m exhausted, and I’m afraid we’ll lose momentum.”

Weiland said he would agree to the postponement, but added, “I want timelines and decision dates and a game plan for what looks like D-Day, with us storming the beaches on a certain date. And that’s my long-winded caveat, to say why I will say ‘yes’ to May.”

Many in the audience applauded in agreement, including Dave Layton of Bainbridge Island Education Association. Teachers waiting for improvements have grown weary waiting for change, he said, particularly at the high school.

Parents and citizens expressed fears about the measure “losing steam” before getting to the voters. With all the divisive “red-state, blue-state stuff” from the presidential campaign, “There’s an openness right now toward working together as a community,” that would benefit the bond effort, said Margaret Powers, a member of the facilities review committee.

But board president Susan Sivitz argued that this board was determined to get a “global view” of the district’s specific needs before asking the voters for money. Sivitz said previous boards had approached the building process piecemeal and ended up cutting costs in places that, in the end, had not served the schools and students well.

This board is “looking at the optimum” of what the local schools will need to produce technologically savvy students in the next decade and beyond, Sivitz said.

The first target of the proposed renovation is Bainbridge High, which has 1,400 students in buildings built to accommodate 900 at the maximum.

Facilities at the school that are most in need of renovation are the 200 Building, which houses the main office and library; the 100 Building, which houses the auditorium; and older parts of the 300 and 500 buildings, which include classrooms and the gymnasium.

Building improvements at the island’s three elementary schools will be phased in later. The board’s planning process in the next few months will determine which schools come first, and when.

A consulting firm will provide the board with firm projections of enrollment in the next decade, and architects will be hired to conduct a site survey of the high school. With firm numbers and a plan in hand, the public relations campaign to convince voters to approve the plan will begin in earnest in March.

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