by Clyde and April Duke
We had three children go through the Orcas public school system. Two graduated conventionally and one through the OASIS program. We want to support the ongoing viability of this important institution, therefore, we will be voting NO on the school bond measure.
When our eldest graduated in 2003 the district had 650 students (non-Oasis) and I don’t think the enrollment has ever risen above that. According to the website, the district now has 464 students. The demographics are not showing a positive trend for the school system. Those of us with local businesses know how hard it is to find employees during the busy season because our overall population is aging (sorry folks, happens to the best of us!).
According to one site about San Juan Island, their population is down 2% from 2010-2015. I couldn’t find data for Orcas, but when we moved here in 1990 it the number of year-round residents was always about 5,000. According to the 2010 census, it was 5,387. Not a lot of growth in 20 years.
Currently, the annual overhead for the school district is around $10 million. If this bond passes we feel that the overhead of the district will go up due to having to maintain the new track, purchase equipment to make it a competitive area and hire a coaching staff.
The main problem we have with the bond as written is that some maintenance projects that received high priority at the community meetings regarding the bond are not included in projects to be completed. These will now need to wait for a future bond and like the parking lot at the high school and the concrete lintels on the elementary school will be ongoing safety issues.
A second issue we have is that for years the sailing and rowing programs have been clubs and have been staffed by volunteers and supported by private fundraisers. Other sports programs have been supported by many volunteer hours and dollars as well. To spend millions of dollars on another sports program in a small community with virtually no growth worries us that it will make it harder to fund the programs already in place.
We regret having to write a negative recommendation after many hours of effort by the school board, staff and members of our community to crafting the bond plan, which is why we’ve waited until the last minute to speak out but our conscience demands it. Sorry OISD, please try again. We would contribute to help fund a new election with a more “needs” versus “wants” focused plan. And a very sincere “thank you” to the donor who wants to help fund the track and who has been a staunch backer of the public schools. Your generosity is wonderful.