The South Kitsap School District Board of Directors hosted three community events to encourage families in the area to ask questions and share their ideas, particularly about ways to fund their operations and facilities.
On Nov. 14, community members gathered at Cedar Heights Middle School to discuss the difference between levies and bonds, what another bond attempt would mean and how it would affect current students.
After two failed attempts recently to pass a construction bond to build a new high school in Port Orchard, the district is trying to decide what to do next, as it nears the tail end of its current levy life.
“We want to hear from the community,” interim Superintendant Karst Brandsma said. “Should we run another bond? When? Should it be less, more or the same? We want transparency.”
To start the meeting, the board presented a slide show to explain the difference between a levy and a bond and why it’s important for a new levy to pass.
“The easiest way to remember is that a levy is for learning and a bond is for building,” he said.
Levies are for day-to-day operations, including classrooms, hiring extra help, supplies and buses. Levies can pass by a simple majority, which is 50 percent, plus one vote.
Bonds, however, need a super-majority to pass, by a 60-percent approval rate, plus one vote. Bonds are used for construction, major facility updates and repairs, and property acquisitions.
Currently, the school district is at the end of a levy that was approved in 2013. It will expire at the end of 2017. The district has prepared a facility planning document and is planning to put a replacement levy on the ballot in February. If passed, it would take effect in 2018.
Posters of all South Kitsap schools were set up at the meeting to showcase the current state of each school. The newest schools built in the school district are Mullenix Ridge, Hidden Creek and Sidney Glen elementaries, all built in 1990 — 26 years ago.
In Washington state, schools more than 20 years old are eligible for state construction funding assistance.
“The needs haven’t changed,” said Amy Miller, school district communications and community information director. “We don’t know what the next step is. We want to know what the community wants.”
After the presentation, all five board members went into separate classrooms, allowing community members to have one-on-one interactions with representatives of their area to ask questions.
Sean and Jenni Reichle are parents and homeowners in the Port Orchard community. Their daughter, Addie, is in first grade at Mullenix Ridge Elementary.
“We came to ask questions and get a better idea of what the next step is,” Sean said.
“We’d love to see a new school and (have) property values increase, but the last time a bond ran, there was a lot of misinformation going around on social media,” Jenni added. “We want to know how we can help communicate.”
The Reichles met with board member Chris Lemke, whose four daughters also attended Mullenix Ridge.
“We’re hopefully going forward,” Lemke said. “We want to go for the questions we can answer with facts we have to back it up.”
One of the questions that arose at the meeting about building a second high school was the idea that the new high school would be for the wealthier neighborhoods in Port Orchard, while the less wealthy would attend South Kitsap High.
“People think it would be a Queen’s Palace High School (to go along with) an old high school,” Lemke said.
“We want to expel that rumor. Both will be full, comprehensive high schools.”
Another key question related to the difference in quality concerns was what location is chosen for a new high school. The simple answer to that question, is: “Growth is happening there.”
“We have been very thoughtful about this process and want as many community members involved as possible,” board member Rebecca Diehl said.
No decisions have been made about if or when the district will run another construction bond. For community members not at the meetings who have questions or concerns, all board members are available by email and phone. Their contact information can be found at www.skitsap.wednet.edu.