Coupeville School District proposes 2 levies

Coupeville Elementary School fourth-grader Ethan Turner types on a computer in Brandi Hewell’s classroom, next to a machine that’s out of order. The Coupeville School District is running two levy elections in February, one of which will improve technology.  - Nathan Whalen/Whidbey News-Times
Coupeville Elementary School fourth-grader Ethan Turner types on a computer in Brandi Hewell’s classroom, next to a machine that’s out of order. The Coupeville School District is running two levy elections in February, one of which will improve technology.
— image credit: Nathan Whalen/Whidbey News-Times

Ballots should start arriving this week for the Coupeville School District election, which is less than three weeks away.

The district has two money proposals before the voters in the Feb. 9 election.

A vast majority of the Coupeville School District’s computers are outdated and officials are looking to the community for help keeping up with technology.

In addition to the routine maintenance and operation levy, the school board decided to run a four-year technology levy to pay for computer upgrades for classes and for training for school district staff.

Both levy measures have to pass by at least a 50 percent majority. Combined cost to a property owner would be $1.23 per $1,000 of assessed value. Broken down, it’s $1.08 for the M&O levy, and 15 cents for technology.

If approved, the Coupeville School District will collect $300,000 a year for four years to fund the purchase of new computers. Approximately 91 percent of the district’s computers don’t meet state standards.

The need for up-to-date computers comes as students in the school district become more technologically literate.

Brandi Hewell, fourth-grade teacher at Coupeville Elementary School, said that two of the four student computers in her classroom have been broken for most of the school year.

“I’m pretty flexible. We try to make do with what we have,” Hewell said.

A recent visit to her classroom showed that students take turns working on the computers. On this particular day, they were typing a poem they wrote and playing educational games that reinforce the skills they learn during classroom instruction.

Hewell said computer access also allows students to conduct research for a social studies project and participate in more interactive activities.

“It’s more energizing for the kids,” Hewell said of the computer use in her classroom. However, her functioning computers don’t have the software needed to operate certain programs.

Bruce Roberts, information services director for school district, said the levy will allow the district to place computer purchases on a four-year replacement cycle.

Another piece of the technology levy would replace the phone system at Coupeville Elementary School.

“We want to do it before it becomes a safety issue,” Roberts said. The elementary school’s phone service doesn’t allow for “enhanced 911,” so when an emergency call is made, the address that shows up at ICOM is the elementary school, but it omits other important information such as the room number.

The Coupeville School District is also asking voters to renew the district’s maintenance and operations levy. That levy comprises around 20 percent of the school district’s revenue and would collect $2.1 million in 2011. The levy pays for teaching positions, coaches and advisors, support staff, textbook, equipment and classroom supplies.

The school district asks for the maximum amount allowed by state law, which is 24 percent of state funding. Voters in the past have been generally supportive of the maintenance and operations levy. There have only been two times where voters initially didn’t approve the levy. In each instance the voters passed it with a large majority the second time around.

Superintendent Patty Page said she understands that the school district is running two levy measures during a sour economy where families are tightening their belts.

“We wanted to be as up front with voters and constituents as we could,” Page said. “We don’t know if the economy will get better or not.”

She noted that the school district was able to complete a number of projects funded by the bond voters approved in 2004. In addition to construction of a new high school, the bond paid for a new covered play area at the elementary school; remodeling of the elementary school entrance that improved security; and completion of a fiber optic network that connects the high school and elementary school. All of those projects were advertised to voters when the school district ran the bond in 2004.

A volunteer community group has also formed to help promote the levy. Debbie Tasoff, who helps coordinate the campaign, said that the volunteers will have to work differently to accommodate the all-mail election. “It’s kind of a whole different ball game,” Tasoff said.

Redistricting also on the ballot

In addition to the two levy proposals on the Feb. 9 ballot, voters in the Coupeville School District will decide whether to approve how people are elected to the school board.

The proposal before voters would dissolve the director districts for the five-member board and create three districts composed of evenly-divided populations.

One school board member would come from each of the three districts and two other members would be “at large” positions and can come from anywhere within the district.

School officials proposed the change because it will give people interested more of an opportunity to run for election.

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