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SOUNDOFF: Join the majority, support the schools
A clear majority -- 54 percent -- of Oak Harbor voters saw the promise of the future and voted "yes" on the March 11 high school renovation proposal.
Unfortunately, state law requires a supermajority of 60 percent to pass local school elections, and the high school bond failed. Our community will have another opportunity on May 20 to prove that we will not settle for mediocrity; we in Oak Harbor will have a second chance to provide our children with an adequate learning environment to prepare them for the 21st century.
The high school bond proposal has not changed because it is the only responsible plan that meets all student needs without exorbitant cost. It is not acceptable for our children to be in a building that does not meet fire code, electric code, or earthquake code any longer than absolutely necessary.
But those are only some of the pressing problems at the high school. The roof, heating, ventilation, and plumbing systems are all in urgent need of overhaul. The school is overcrowded, technologically inadequate and the outdated design poses serious safety concerns. The athletic facilities are in dire need of rework, and the 50-year old stadium is falling apart. A performing arts center does not exist, and while a larger one would be nice, a 500-seat hall will meet school needs and be a logical size for the community to use (according to Whidbey Arts Foundation and a study conducted by Jones and Phillips, Theatrical Design Consultants).
There are only two plans that will solve all the above problems and responsibly house students in an acceptable learning environment during renovation: the proposal before the voters at a cost of $57 million, or a brand new high school off Fort Nugent Road costing in excess of $85 million.
Both plans would extend the life span of the high school a minimum of 30 years and maintain the flexibility of design to adapt to what is guaranteed to be a changing world. No other plan can say the same.
The Oak Harbor School Board sensibly (and unanimously) chose the more fiscally prudent $57 million plan. If the proposal passes, the actual cost to the community after a state grant would be $45 million.
The good news is that bond rates are now at historic lows. Voting yes for this proposal is the right thing to do -- it is a fiscally sound promise for the future of Oak Harbor.
Please join our list of official endorsees in voting yes for high school renovation on May 20.
State Rep. Barry Sehlin
State Rep. Barbara Bailey
State Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen
Mayor Patty Cohen
Oak Harbor City Council (unanimously)
County Commissioner Mac McDowell
Island County Treasurer Linda Riffe
Greater Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce
Whidbey Arts Foundation
North Puget Sound Association of Realtors
Oak Harbor High School PTA
Oak Harbor Elementary PTA, Olympic View Elementary PTO, Hillcrest Elementary PTA, Broadview Elementary PTA Crescent Harbor Elementary PTA, Clover Valley Elementary PAC North Whidbey Middle School PTA, Oak Harbor Middle School PTA
Oak Harbor Wildcat Booster Club
Oak Harbor Education Association
Oak Harbor Building Administrators Association,
Public School Employees.
Lynn Goebel, Kathy Chalfant, Marvin Reed, Peter Hunt, Citizens for Better Schools