Oak Harbor school district conducts survey on failed bond measure

The district is conducting a survey to garner feedback about the recent failed bond measure.

The Oak Harbor School District is conducting a survey to garner feedback from the community about the recent failed bond measure.

The purpose of the survey is to inform future planning to address aging school buildings and other improvements, according to Sarah Foy, communications officer for the district.

The $121 million February ballot measure received just over 55% of the required 60% supermajority needed to pass. The bond would have rebuilt three school buildings for elementary-age students and updated safety measures throughout the district.

The survey questions focus on evaluating communication strategies from the district and determining community priorities. Foy said the district hopes to receive feedback from all community stakeholders including staff, parents, community members and business partners.

The survey results may inform the approach to the next bond campaign. Foy said survey responses will be shared with the school board as well as members of an upcoming building advisory committee, which will review the data and make recommendations for the future. The school board will determine if and when another bond measure is put forth to voters.

“The longer we wait to address the needs of our aging schools, the more expensive a bond will be for our community,” Foy wrote in an email. “Without a significant investment from our community, the needs and costs of our schools will continue to grow.”

There is a chance that a new bond can be pared significantly.

State Sen. Ron Muzzall (R-Oak Harbor) is trying to secure $27.5 million in state funds for district construction projects. If the bill makes it through both chambers in Olympia, the money could be used to secure an additional $106 million from the federal government to construct two new school buildings. The Department of Defense promised to pay 80% of the cost for the projects if the district came up with the additional 20%, but now two bond measures have failed to receive the supermajority needed to pass.

“Through our strong partnerships with local legislators, in particular Sen. Muzzall who is a long-term supporter and champion for our schools and community, we have worked to now seek state support through the Washington Department of Commerce to capture those matching dollars,” Foy wrote.

She added that aging school facilities is not just a problem in Oak Harbor, but a state and national issue.

“We hope that our legislators will make a bigger investment in our children and schools to fully fund education by supporting the costs to remodel or rebuild schools that are deemed substandard,” Foy wrote. “Until then, we will need to work closely with our community and find creative ways to improve our facilities to ensure all of our students are learning in safe, modern learning environments.”

The district hopes to receive the majority of the feedback by early to mid-April. The survey can be found at https://bit.ly/bondsurvey2023.