State provides $27.5M for Oak Harbor schools

State Sen. Ron Muzzall secured $27.5 million in state funds to rebuild two schools in Oak Harbor.

State Sen. Ron Muzzall, R-Oak Harbor, secured $27.5 million in state funds to rebuild two schools in the Oak Harbor School District.

The earmark made it through both chambers in Olympia and will be used as matching funds 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 two projects if Oak Harbor Public Schools came up with the additional 20%.

The federal funds seemed out of reach after a $121 million school bond measure failed to receive a supermajority in February, but the district will now be able to rebuild two of the three schools that were on the ballot.

The state’s capital construction budget will provide $13.9 million to construct a new building that houses both Hand-in-Hand and HomeConnection, which offers early learning programs and classes for home-schooled children. Another $13.6 million is allocated to Crescent Harbor Elementary School.

Because the schools are on federal land, the district is now eligible for additional federal funds amounting to $55.9 million for Hand-in-Hand and HomeConnection and $53.9 million for Crescent Harbor.

Both Crescent Harbor Elementary and the building that houses Hand-in-Hand Early Learning Center and HomeConnection – built in 1970 and 1961, respectively – face overcrowding, lack of storage and issues caused by the old age of the facilities. Both rely on portables to supplement the lack of classrooms. Portables are buildings that are meant to temporarily provide additional classroom space. They have no bathrooms or running water and are colder than the main buildings.

The failed school bond would have also rebuilt Oak Harbor Elementary, which faces similar issues. The main building was constructed in 1948 and has asbestos-laden floors and walls. Oak Harbor Elementary was not eligible for matching federal dollars.

Despite Oak Harbor voters failing to pass two school bonds in the past two years, some students in the district will eventually be able to learn in two brand-new buildings.

“Working with my colleagues across the aisle and in the state House, this needed investment for our children’s education is closer to becoming reality,” said Muzzall in a statement. “I’m absolutely thrilled that these resources will be available for our community and that the fifth generation of the Muzzall family will get a strong public education in these new facilities.”

At Monday’s school board meeting, Superintendent Michelle Kuss-Cybula said the budget now only needs Gov. Jay Inslee’s signature to be approved.

“The legislation that we went and advocated for in Olympia and all the phone calls and emails and pestering and the relentless pursuit of trying to find this application money for the grants that we were awarded – we finally got it,” she said.