Dozens of residents attended Thursday night’s school board meeting to hear about a proposal for a nearly $90-million bond issue to rebuild the high school. The school board is set to take action next month on the proposal generated by a 32-person school district facilities committee.
During a slide presentation, Architect Marc Estvold told the school board that the current high school buildings were built in 1955, with a major addition in 1076. He said the classroom buildings, “have had a long life and have worn out.” The infrastructure is past its life expectancy.
Renovate or replace was, Estvold said, the question for the facilities committee. He said he concluded the cost of renovation would be nearly the cost of a new construction.
Once a decision was made to rebuild, Estvold acknowledged one of the dilemmas was where to put new classrooms. After describing the disruption that would take place as classrooms were torn down and replaced in the same location, he said the decision was made to put new classrooms where War Memorial Field is.
He said the committee recognized the emotional significance of replacing the field with classrooms, Estvold said that an accommodation would be made for a memorial somewhere on campus, perhaps, he said, at an upgraded Rice Field.
School Superintendent Mark Wenzel told the school board that the plan is cost-effective, makes good sense and keeps the focus on student learning. He said the rebuild would students to better focus on education and would allow for an increase in enrollment in future years.
How much would the new tax levy cost property owners to pay off the proposed 20-year bonds? The audience was told the levy would amount to about 58-cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation and bring the the total school levy to $3.28 per $1,000.
Public comments, and most comments were by school staff and facilities committee members, were all positive.
Island Hospital CEO Vince Oliver made an impassioned plea for the board to approve the committee report and “move aggressively” to get the proposal to the voters. “Delay will ultimately cost the taxpayers millions of dollars.
Police Chief Bonnie Bowers expressed concern for student safety. “There are way too many access points. The school isn’t designed for today’s security issues,” she said.
Turnout Thursday night was good compared to most school board meetings when no one from the general public attend.
Two earlier votes failed to win the required 60-percent approval vote. One in 2007 was for $60-million, with $51-million earmarked for the high school. Another bond request in 2008 for an even higher amount, $63-million, also failed.