SOUNDOFF: Help kids reach potential

Come to the Tuesday, Jan. 7, Oak Harbor Bond Kickoff Rally.

Preparing our students to become responsible citizens is a shared responsibility from which we all benefit. Education is the most critical aspect of a child’s development that a community can directly impact; many of life’s vital lessons, not simply academics, but service, responsibility, and contribution are learned at school. It is critical our students have a sound foundation of practical skills to enter Washington’s tightening job market.

Oak Harbor has invested dramatically in our schools in recent years, and the rewards are obvious and inspiring. To witness the enthusiasm and success talk with a student, a parent, a teacher, or walk through any of the five elementary or two middle schools that have been remodeled or newly built (the Broadview elementary remodel will be completed by August of next year). Together, we have made exciting progress for our community’s children.

It is time to finish the job we started for Oak Harbor’s kids. Our high school — constructed in 1974 for 1,079 students — was designed for a 30 year life span. The plumbing leaks, the electrical system requires a complete overhaul, and the ventilation and heating units are at the end of their useful life. Despite a moderate expansion in 1991, the high school cannot accommodate today’s over 1,800 students, and the infrastructure — built before the advent of the personal computer and the Internet — is inadequate to teach 21st century technology.

The high school’s 72 entrances compromise security in today’s uncertain world. Numerous studies support the crucial role of sports programs in reducing drop out rates and fostering success in later life, yet this year the Wildcat football team had to finish their best season in 20 years away from home because Memorial Stadium does not meet state standards. The school track is crumbling and is prone to flooding; the locker and weight rooms are tiny and deficient. Parker Hall, the school auditorium, serves extra duty as the lunchroom, drama stage and overflow classroom, despite being too small and inadequate for each of these functions.

The solution is a fiscally responsible plan that combines renovation (56 percent of the proposed building) and new construction (44 percent) to maximize community resources. The high school will remain open and operating while the four-year project is underway. There will be more classrooms, all with access to current technology, modern labs and shops, a larger library, adequate sports facilities and parking, and a 500-seat performing arts center for the community to share. Safety will be improved by eliminating fifty entrances. The stadium will be co-located on the current school grounds, freeing Memorial Stadium for community use and/or historical renovation.

The proposal protects Oak Harbor’s investment — the useful life of OHHS will be extended for a minimum of 30 years. The plan’s total cost of $57,000,000 qualifies for the maximum state matching money — $12,000,000 — and reduces Oak Harbor’s expense to $45,000,000. The bond will require a tax increase of 90 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value, the equivalent of a higher annual tax of $135 for a $150,000 home or $11.25 a month. Certain qualified seniors will be exempt.

You can help give Oak Harbor’s children the opportunity to reach their potential and contribute to society. Please come to the High School Bond kick off rally on Tuesday, Jan. 7, 7p.m. at the high school’s Parker Hall. Sensibly investing in strong schools nurtures the spirit and vitality of our community.

Please vote yes on March 11 for the Oak Harbor High School bond proposal.

Kathy Chalfant and Lynn Goebel are co-chairs of Citizens for Better Schools

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