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School districts await guidance on I-728 money

"While Oak Harbor District officials fret about whether the district will get its share of federal school money this year, they and their counterparts in Coupeville are also trying to figure out what to do with a new influx of cash headed their way as a result of Initiative 728.The initiative, which re-directs unobligated lottery money, emergency funds and part of state property tax into reducing class size, got overwhelming support from voters last week. Early estimates show that the Coupeville School District could get somewhere in the neighborhood of $250,000 more revenue next year. Oak Harbor could get about $1.3 million. But there will be rules for its use, and the initiative specifies that districts need to hear public comment on the best ways to spend it.Coupeville Superintendent Suzanne Bond said her district is waiting to see guidelines from the office of the state's Superintendent of Public Instruction before holding any hearings. Oak Harbor Superintendent Rick Schulte has already recommended to the school board that the vast majority of new dollars be used to increase the teaching force by as many as 20 classroom teachers. The Oak Harbor board's initial reaction was mixed.But if the districts decide to use the money to hire new teachers, they will have to act pretty soon. Advertising of open positions and interviewing often takes place in the spring and with all school districts across the state potentially looking for teachers, competition among them could be intense.We'll need to be out there hiring staff in February or March, Schulte said.According to Schulte, the addition of 20 more teachers would currently not require anymore classroom construction. But Bond said that's not necessarily the case in Coupeville where teachers and students are already packed pretty tightly into existing space. "

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