Orcas Island school buildings are unsafe

Last weekend, after the Pet Parade, the school held an Open House for four hours to tour community members through the facilities. It was another great opportunity to see first hand the conditions of our failing existing buildings and the necessity for a school bond to pay for the improvement of our school facilities in order to insure the health and safety of its occupants: teachers and students. 

We understand that not everyone is going to vote for, approve of, or even like the idea of a sizeable bond to upgrade our one and only public school complex on Orcas and the Waldron School, but we are faced with having to replace and repair construction built under previous bonds that have far outlived their original intended life cycle.  While the previous construction, built in 1980 with plywood siding, was not intended to last beyond 15 to 20 years, the proposed bond targets a 50-year building life, making it an investment in a lasting and durable facility for the future of Orcas Island. Though the majority of voters supported the last school bond proposal by a substantial majority of 55 percent, it missed passing with the necessary supermajority needed by less than 150 votes. For the August ballot, the School Board has reduced educational programs and scope of work by more than 20 percent to address only the most critical needs of the school. The projected mill rate would be 54 cents – just 11 cents more than we paid in 2008, and 3 cents less than the average rate that we paid between 1996 and 2009.  Most taxpayers in this state currently pay an average of 95 cents to support their school districts.

Four years of studies, countless testing, and expert opinions are telling us loud and clear that the current state of the school buildings on both Orcas and Waldron is unhealthy and unsafe, and this must be addressed now.  

The Yes for School Committee