By now Oak Harbor voters should have received their ballots for the upcoming election on Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14. Oak Harbor Public Schools is asking voters to consider approving a bond measure that would replace three aging schools and enhance safety at all schools by creating single-points of entry at a declining tax rate for property owners.
As election day nears, you may be wondering why now is the time to consider a school bond measure. The approval of this bond measure would rebuild schools that have been deemed unfit for a remodel by the State and the Department of Defense because of the materials and old infrastructure of these buildings. With building costs increasing, postponing school construction is unlikely to result in any cost-savings. Waiting longer to build schools could result in the loss of millions in matching dollars, increased construction costs and/or design changes.
The bond proposal utilizes available funds provided by the Department of Defense to reduce the cost on taxpayers (approximately $109 million). Due to the poor condition, overcrowding, and the locations of Crescent Harbor Elementary and Hand-in-Hand Early Learning Center/HomeConnection, the Department of Defense is providing 80% of the funding to rebuild these schools. This money is time bound and if the bond is not passed, the funding from the Department of Defense will go to another community in need. It took local and district leadership many years of dedication and hard work to secure these matching dollars to benefit our community and schools.
Additionally, the third school on the bond project list will house more students to address the overcrowding happening in our elementary schools. As our schools added new programs, all-day kindergarten, and hot lunch programs, our elementary schools outgrew their current space and we added 24 temporary, portable classrooms (and this number continues to grow!). On any given day, we have approximately 430 students in portable classrooms with no bathroom access or reliable HVAC systems.
Another important component of this bond measure is safety enhancements, which includes adding single-points of entry to all of our schools. This was a need that was expressed loudly by our parents, students and staff at the beginning of the school year after multiple lockouts happened the first few weeks of school.
I hope the Oak Harbor community will take the opportunities available to learn more about our schools and the upcoming bond measure. We have posted tours of the school sites, renderings, and FAQs on our website: www.ohsd.net/bond2023. Please take the time to learn more and ask questions.
Michelle Kuss-Cybula is the superintendent of Oak Harbor Public Schools.