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School district surveys public sentiment

Approximately 20 people attended a June 2 public forum to discuss future construction projects in the Oak Harbor School District. Most of those people were employees, school board members or those on the capital facilities committee.

Because of the lack of general public participation, the Oak Harbor School District will be conducting a survey of students, staff and the public.

“We haven’t had enough public input to move forward,” School Board member David McCool said during a board workshop Monday evening.

School officials have to move fast to get the survey done. They want it complete before June 17, which is the last day of school for students.

The survey will ask people about how large bond issues should be to pay for construction of a new athletic facility at the high school and a renovation of Oak Harbor High School.

McCool said that it would be useful to have current information to gauge public sentiment about coming bond elections. District Superintendent Rick Schulte said the survey should be ready in time for the June 28 school board meeting.

School officials haven’t decided yet how to conduct the survey.

Preliminary plans show bonds would be needed to pay for both projects. While bonds pay for construction projects, the levy voters approved last spring pays for maintenance and operations costs. Those costs include teacher salaries.

Athletic facility construction would be funded by a $6.5 million bond and community donations that currently total $400,000. The high school renovation would be funded by a bond ranging from $36.8 million to $48.7 million. School officials are also looking at the bond that voters rejected in 2003 and readjusting it to current dollars. People participating in the survey will be asked which proposal is preferable.

While school officials gauge public sentiment in the community, the discussion about when to run bond elections continues.

The Rotary Club, which has raised the $400,000 toward a goal of $1 million, wants a single bond election to run in November to fund the athletic facility.

However, the board has heard from other residents preferring both proposals to run at the same time.

“I think it’s very important that we honor Rotary,” school board member Kathy Chalfant said, adding there should be a meeting with Rotary to discuss timing issues.

“Right now we are divided,” Chalfant said.

Jim Slowik, co-chair of the Rotary fund-raising committee, said volunteers told donors that an athletic facility bond will run in November.

He said there is some discomfort among donors because of the increasing price of the athletic facility that was originally advertised to cost $5 million. There is also concern about the timing of the bond elections, Slowik said.

“If you want those people in your corner, you’ll follow through with the November election,” Slowik said.

Schulte said for an election to be held in November, the school board would have to approve a resolution in September. The details of the bond have to be ready in August. He said it’s a tight timeline to get the resolution ready and added that July isn’t a good time to have public meetings because they are often poorly attended.

In addition to the two projects at the high school, there is a list of other projects at other buildings throughout the school district. The Capital Facilities Committee should take that up at future meetings. They meet again Wednesday, June 8, 6:30 p.m. at the Administrative Service Center, 350 S Oak Harbor Street.

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