School prepares for bond and levy vote

Orcas Island School District is requesting a bond and a levy from the community on the upcoming Nov. 7 election.

After a bond request for $8 million failed to gain a supermajority by three votes during the February election, OISD’s school board returned to the drawing board with help from the community to devise a new plan. In June, the board added necessary improvements the bond request, raising it from $8 million to $10.8 million. The board also removed field upgrades from the bond, creating a $1.36 million levy to prepare the area for a new track.

On Monday, Sept. 25, Superintendent Eric Webb held an informational meeting to explain the changes to the bond and the addition of the levy.

“Back in March we had a community forum … There were basically two questions: why did the bond not reach super majority? And (what are) strategies on how to pass the bond in November?” said Webb. “What we heard was: ‘Do away with the phases. We don’t know how you got to the phases, but do away with those.’”

According to Webb, the community is tired of the school’s development projects being done in phases. The school board was also informed that the $1.36 million for a track seemed an unnecessary addition. A $1.2 million donation made to the district by Phyllis Henigson and her late husband Bob would cover the cost of constructing the track and annual maintenance, but the additional $1.36 million is needed to upgrade the existing fields and prepare the area for the proposed track.

The bond will now be for $10.8 million, and will cost 29 cents per $1,000 of assessed value of a house for 20 years. The $1.36 million levy will cost 11 cents per $1,000 of assessed value for a six year span.

“We listened to the community and they said, ‘You need to add these other items onto it; let’s do it all at one time,’” said Webb.

The first two phases were completed between June 2014 and August 2015. After rejecting two previous requests for bonds, one for $35 million and another for $27 million, islanders approved a $11.9 million bond in 2012 which funded the first parts of the project.

Being added to the bond are: water improvements at the high school, including plumbing, sewer and fire suppression ($1,149,388); exterior and interior improvements of the old gym including new paint, siding, seismic, mechanical and electric upgrades ($1,979,189); a new music/multi-purpose room ($1,353,637); and replacing the high school’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system.

“High school HVAC is a critical [component of the bond] for us. It’s also one we started the design process on, going forward. We want to be able to do this in the summer of 2018. The only way we can do this work is if we start the design process now,” said Webb. “Our students will have to go through the winter one more time without heat in the high school. We’ll use space heaters for that.”

The music/multi-purpose room will add 2,300 square feet, relocating music classes from the existing space in the elementary school into this new area.

“We have an award-winning strings class that we’d like to move from the elementary school into their own building along with the elementary music,” said Webb. “This is kind of a two for one – we gain space in the elementary building as we move that music program out into the new building. We’re able to use that multipurpose room for other classes.”

The bond will also allow for installation of nine new electric doors for disability access, replace some windows in the elementary school and fix the front doors of the high school that let out a lot of heat in the winter.

“We have a tradition of excellence. We have some wonderful programs. We have very successful students,” said Webb. “What we need is the facilities to do this in … So the time is just right around the corner – it’s here.”