BISD mulls another series of levies

The Bainbridge Island School District Board of Directors recently began discussions around the replacement of two levies at a board meeting earlier this month.

The Educational Programs & Operations Levy (EP&O) and the Tech Levy, both of which run through 2021, are up. The EP&O Levy primarily funds general staffing, utilities, staff support, athletics and clubs, while the tech levy provides the school district with the money to keep up with the growing role technology plays in education.

On June 9, the board saw presentations on the uses and needs that could be covered by the two levies. No dollar amount for either levy has been finalized and discussion surrounded putting the levy up for a vote in February 2021. The board has until November 2020 to make that decision, said Erin Bischoff, the district’s Public Relations Officer.

The need for technology in school districts all over the state has been highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic, as students spent the final three months of their school year learning from home via Zoom video calls and online learning platforms.

“BISD is very fortunate to have the community’s support, including funding the tech levy,” Bischoff said. “The importance of the tech levy was made very apparent in the spring when we had to transition to a remote learning environment. We were able to provide technology — Chromebooks or iPads — for student use across all grade levels.”

Kiyo Toma, the district’s Director of Technology, created a presentation to the board for the June 9 study session that highlighted the foundation the district has in place and where there are opportunities to build.

Bainbridge already has a one-to-one ratio for technology in grades three through 12 and were able to distribute iPads to younger students, which provided a good structure for distance learning this spring. The district also has cloud-based services, such as G-Suite, Google SSO and Google Classroom, and robust high-speed Internet on all of its campuses, though a tech levy cannot solve any inequities students face in terms of connectivity at home.

According to district officials, a future tech levy could allow the district to invest in more technological professional development, instructional technology leadership and the replacement of older staff Chromebooks, which may be insufficient for video workflows.

The EP&O Levy funds education above state or grant funding, including basic and special education, support staff such as librarians, counselors, paraeducators, and nurses, district-wide maintenance, transportation and central office costs and extracurricular activities. Additional costs that can be covered by the levy include professional development, and for 2020-2021, supplies such as personal protective equipment, barriers and distancing signage.

The estimated maximum levy amounts, based on an enrollment estimate of 3,750 for the next three years using the CPI estimates by OSPI, are as follows. The current levy is $9,651,660.

2021: $9,822,300

2022: $9,941,250

2023: $10,121,250

2024: $10,305,000

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