Let school board know your thoughts on bond

Last March, we, the community told the Vashon school board that we wanted preventive maintenance done on all our school buildings. We told them we wanted to have a fully funded maintenance program. Well, the Vashon school board heard our voices and is giving us a capital levy to vote on in November to cover a fully funded maintenance program and much-needed technology instruction and equipment.

Now they are asking for our voices again to help formulate what the next capital bond measure will look like and how much it will cost. The bond — which would cover the costs of rebuilding and renovating portions of Vashon High School — will probably be on the ballot in February. We need to help the board craft a bond that will succeed. We waste money on failed bonds. In the last fiscal year, we spent more than $150,000 on both the failed bond and the upcoming bond. The money was spent on planning, project management and King County election fees. This February — assuming the board moves forward — more will be spent. We have other good uses for this money. 

Now is the time to articulate to the board what you will accept and what you won’t accept in a new bond package. The board is being very thoughtful and trying to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of each item going into the bond. But they need our help in finishing this process. The board needs to know where the community stands on each of these items before the bond is put on the ballot. It is holding a special meeting for our input on Thursday, Sept. 17.

I am asking all those who voted no on the $75.5 million bond in March to please show up for this meeting and voice your opinion. This meeting is for us. The board is asking us to weigh in now before the vote.

At this point the board is considering a proposed bond of around $46 million. This would cover the costs of a new high school classroom building, remodeling the main high school structure, keeping the district offices at Chautauqua Elementary School, upgrades to Chautauqua and McMurray Middle School and technology infrastructure upgrades. 

What is really up for debate is the Vashon High School gym. We could bring the gym’s heating and ventilating systems up to date with some other immediately needed safety repairs for $2.5 million (raising the total bond measure to $48.6 million). We could completely remodel the gym, keeping the existing footprint, for $8.2 million (bringing the bond costs to $54.5 million). Or we could remodel the existing gym and add new restrooms, new weight room and new lobby for $9.2 million (raising the bond measure to $55.5 million). 

The choice is ours. This is the critical moment. We want a bond that will be useful for the students and affordable to the community. The board should not have to decide this in a vacuum. If you are an Islander, you have an opinion. Don’t just debate these opinions at the coffee stands. Board members need to know what you think, and they need to know before they make their final decision on this bond measure. Only with our collective voices speaking out will this happen, and only then will we have a successful measure. Come to this meeting and be counted.

— Hilary Emmer lives on Maury Island.

Tour the high school gym and then join the school board for a forum to discuss the upcoming bond measure on Thursday, Sept. 17. The gym tour begins at 6:30 p.m. Meet in front of the gym. The forum will likely begin shortly after 7 p.m., right after the tour, in the high school library.

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