In Our Opinion: Passage of school levy is imperative, even during a pandemic

Voters who live in North Whidbey will decide whether to return to the dark ages of the Oak Harbor school district.

There was a time, not that long ago, when the community wasn’t as supportive of the district as it is today, and the district’s reputation suffered. It was a time when levies didn’t always pass, when playing fields didn’t meet safety standards, when school buildings were aged and inadequate, when the idea of providing hot lunches to children was a big controversy.

Or voters could choose to support the upward trajectory of the district and pass the school levy in the Feb. 9 special election.

The levy would bring in $48.4 million over four years. It’s a replacement levy, which means it would replace a levy that already exists, plus an increase to account for inflation. If it passes, the rate is estimated to be $2.28 per $1,000 assessed property value, or $684 for a $300,000 house.

That’s not pocket change, especially during a worldwide pandemic. The district has the bad luck of having to ask voters to pass a levy during an unparalleled time of uncertainly.

But voters should consider long-term impacts and not succumb to the paralysis of fear and myopia. Superintendent Lance Gibbon wasn’t exaggerating when he said it would be catastrophic if the district was unable to pass a levy.

The state funds “basic education,” but lawmakers’ definition falls far short of community expectations.The failure of the levy would mean there’s no money for sports teams, after-school clubs, advanced placement classes, mental health counselors, arts programs, extended school days and much more.

Oak Harbor has been a model for other districts in safely continuing in-person education for younger grades, albeit at a “hybrid” level. It’s the largest district in the state to start in September with in-person learning.

Across the nation, many children — especially those in low-income families — are falling behind because of the limitations of distance learning. Oak Harbor kids, however, had the advantage of attending real classrooms, although it took a Herculean effort by school staff.

COVID-19 took a toll on everyone. School administrators acknowledge this and are preparing. Fittingly, the district’s motto for the levy is “Heal. Restore. Rebuild.”

A levy failure would do the opposite.

More in Opinion

Sound Off: Rethinking proposed bans on natural gas

By Don Brunell Sometimes being first isn’t good. Such is the case… Continue reading

In Our Opinion: Disputes unmask extent of misinformation, confusion about face coverings

Together with social distancing, donning a face covering is proven to be… Continue reading

Sound Off: State’s military, economy rely on Super Hornet funding

Washington state is an important state for our country’s Armed Services and… Continue reading

In Our Opinion: History of Whidbey Island law enforcement is one of reform

Whidbey Island residents are lucky to have the professionally run law enforcement… Continue reading

Sound Off: Climate on the agenda this year; carbon tax should be too

A few weeks into the new administration, the federal government is off… Continue reading

Smaller, safer nuclear reactors in works for Hanford reservation

It isn’t often we hear good news from the Hanford, but the… Continue reading

Sound Off: Workshop a chance to learn about racist societal structures

As our nation struggles with current and past racial injustices, it is… Continue reading

In Our Opinion: Deer Lagoon Grange’s membership should be open to all

The Deer Lagoon Grange has become an unlikely focal point in the… Continue reading

In Our Opinion: Seek public input, avoid consultants in spending stimulus money

It appears that government officials on Whidbey will have a lot of… Continue reading

In Our Opinion: Central Whidbey location is right for homeless shelter

Since 2017, the Haven has offered a warm, safe place to sleep… Continue reading

Sound Off: Working to strengthen WhidbeyHealth’s financial position

The declaration of a global pandemic was made just over a year… Continue reading

From the Publisher: Times are changing, and so is our mode of newspaper delivery

When you’re nearly 130 years old, you have to adapt to the… Continue reading