Update: A recount was completed on March 3, and the results remained the same. The school bond fell short of recieving the votes needed for it to pass.
Editor’s note: For voters in San Juan County who mail in their ballots, the mail has to travel to Seattle for a postmark which is a five-day round-trip endeavor. The best way to guarantee your ballot makes it to the elections office on time is to use the dropbox at the senior center.
The Orcas Island School District is not giving up on its dream of completing the school’s phase III remodel.
Following the failure of the $8 million bond on the Feb. 14 ballot, Superintendent Eric Webb submitted an application for a manual recount on Feb. 27.
“This was really close, let’s see if the recount will pass it,” said School Board Director Chris Sutton. “The general consensus was, ‘let’s just stay the course on this for right now.’”
The bond required a supermajority – 60 percent of the vote – to pass. A total of 2,210 ballots were counted; 59.86 percent voted yes while 40.14 percent voted no.
In a letter to the school board, San Juan County Prosecutor Randall Gaylord suggesting resubmitting the original bond to the next election in August or November if the recount fails to reach 60 percent.
“You will probably hear that you should remove one thing or another and run it again – that the track or the music room or maintenance needs caused people to vote against this proposal,” wrote Gaylord. “That would make sense if the approval was closer to 50 percent. But 59.9 percent (or more) approved the measure, which shows you have put together a good combination of capital projects.”
Opponents of the bond mostly objected to the bond because of the $1.3 million requested to help construct the proposed new track. An anonymous community member donated $1 million to the school for the sole purpose of building a track that can be used by both students and the public. Without the bond, the school cannot afford to build the track and therefore will not receive the $1 million donation.
Webb said he hopes voters who rejected the bond had accurate information on the measure. Forums and school walk-throughs were available to the public.
Gaylord also noted 16 ballots were rejected because they were postmarked a day late. Those 16 voters were “solidly” in support of the bond, said Gaylord, and had they been counted, would have secured a win for the school district.
“We are grateful and appreciative of Randy Gaylord’s support of the school district and we value his input,” said Webb. “The board and I are awaiting a recount before we move forward. If we enter into another bond, it is likely we will invite the public to brainstorm and provide input as we did last fall.”
After examining the top needs and wants from the community and school administration, the school board identified the following projects for the bond:
High school: heating system replacement, $1,612,204; water system improvements, $964,053; interior finishes and vestibule, $500,000.
Campus-wide: Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant electronic doors, $100,000. New music/multi-purpose room: $1,358,637.
New field/track: $2,360,000 total, minus a $1 million donation from a community member, equaling $1.3 million needed from the proposed bond.
Elementary school: Interior finish upgrades, $500,000.
Old gym: Exterior improvements, locker rooms and bathrooms renovation, equipment, refurbish flooring, $1,428,108.
Site: School road improvements, $127,499.
Waldron Island school: Interior improvements, $47,600.
Gaylord also had some public relations suggestions for the school board to pass the next request for a school bond.
“It’s time for the school district to take a page from other districts, and form a committee to advocate for projects and remind people to sign their ballots and get them to the post office or ballot box early and not on election day,” wrote Gaylord. “The public wants to see your commitment and one way to do that is to form a committee to explain and advocate, so that voters have the information they need.”
Webb and the school board are appreciative of the voters who wanted to approve the school bond.
“We have received an outpouring of support since the initial count was reported as a loss by only three votes,” said Webb. “Thank you for putting Orcas Island students first.”