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CK school board studies why bond vote failed

Time constraints, the perception Fairview Junior High is too new of a school to replace, and an increase in taxes played a part in toppling the CK school district’s bond campaign to replace four aging schools, according to a recent survey.

For two hours on Dec. 3, the Central Kitsap school board discussed the survey results that pointed to the $60 million bond proposal’s strengths and weaknesses. The measure was sent to the voters in September and would have replaced Central Kitsap Junior High, Fairview Junior High, Seabeck and Jackson Park elementary schools.

The proposal failed, getting 49 percent of the “yes” vote. It needed 60 percent to pass.

About 2,000 surveys were distributed to all district staff, CK Citizens for Quality Education, the PTA Council, Community Finance Committee and CK Key Communicators. As of Nov. 17, 475 surveys were returned.

It asked people what aspects they liked about the bond, what they didn’t like, why people did or didn’t support the bond and what advice they have for the school board as they move forward.

People suggested:

l Consider modifying the proposal.

l Provide more and clear information on how current facilities don’t meet the specific educational/safety needs of students

l Ask for bonds for each school individually.

l Explain why projects from the last bond were not completed

l Move away from totally new buildings; modernize some of them.

Board and staff members agreed there was not enough time to successfully sell the idea of replacing four schools. The board called the election in July hoping to take advantage of interest rates which were at a 40-year low.

The board could call an election for Feb. 3, March 9, April 27 and May 18 of 2004. To get on the Feb. 3 ballot, the school district must file by Dec. 19. No decision has been made on when the bond proposal will be brought to voters again.

Board members and staff discussed at length the community’s concern about including Fairview Junior High in the bond package.

“Everyone in the community seemed to be fixated on the date Fairview was built, 1971,” said Richard Best, facilities director for the district. But the building is not suited to meet educational needs he said. To modernize the building would cost about $27 million, about $3 million less than to replace it, Best said. The old Fairview building would have been remodeled for $10 million that came from heavy impact funds rather than bond money. But what the old school would have been used for was not clear according to those surveyed.

Other concerns people had about the bond included:

l The costs of the projects.

l Replacing so many schools at one time.

l Voters were unclear on where the new building locations would be for Seabeck and Fairview.

l The economic climate , unemployment, higher taxes.

Board members have met with officials from other school districts who recently passed bond packages to find out how they succeeded.

“You really need an army of people,” to pass a bond said Cathy Davidson, CK superintendent. The proposal should also have something for everyone, board members said.

But what people want is also unclear according to survey results.

“On the one hand we’re asked to keep the message simple, on the other hand how do we get the message out,” said LeeAnn Powers board member.

Bob Bentley, president for CK Citizens for Quality Education suggested showing people the consequences of failing to pass the bond.

“How do you measure the loss of learning,” Davidson said. “How do you put a dollar figure on that?”

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