The theme that the school district board has listened to the public when deciding on the bond proposal up for election has revealed itself in numerous letters to the editor in recent weeks, but it’s not just a commonly held belief by those who support the district, it is true.
Last February, Vashon voters rejected a $26.9 million bond that would have increased property taxes by up to $228 per year for a $460,000 home. The bond called for a new high school gym, track and field and grandstands, as well as renovations for Building K and the district’s maintenance building. While the bond addressed the same concerns at the district’s oldest facilities as the current bond proposal, it called on replacement rather than repair to address those concerns. Vashon’s voters found that solution too expensive, and the bond failed. The new board refocused and researched and found out that the high school gym is seismically sound and the high school’s outdoor grandstand can be made safer with some minor improvements. The board cut nearly $17 million in what would have been justified spending in an effort to address only the most necessary projects.
The most significant reduction in price has come from cuts to work on the high school gym. The price has fallen from $15.9 million in last February’s bond to less than $485,000 this time around. The gym’s bleachers will be inspected and receive minor work, and the seats will be capped with plastic caps; equipment on the gym’s interior will be seismically braced, and the roof will be replaced.
The current bond’s largest proposed project is the replacement of the high school’s track and field with all-weather surfaces. The track is in no state to hold meets, but it is hardly in any shape to even host practices. The track resembles a mud puddle in the winter and early spring, just as the track and field team is beginning its season. The same can be said for the field, which guzzles more than 1 million gallons of water per year, but remains off-limits for most uses. As for potential health risks associated with artificial turf, the school board has already decided not to use crumb rubber infill.
Meanwhile, at McMurray Middle School, the board has proposed $996,000 for locker room upgrades, along with new windows and flooring. On a tour of the school earlier this month, windows were seen falling out of frames and duct tape was keeping the frayed edges of the carpet down. The locker rooms are more than 50 years old and contain old, defunct showers and rusted lockers.
There is no excuse for these types of repairs to be put off any longer. Track and field replacement bonds have been struck down for the past decade and were left out of the new high school construction due to costs, as were Building K and the district’s maintenance building. It’s time to stop prolonging the inevitable. There will not be a better deal.