I still remember the days when the hallways at Tonasket High School were lined with plastic garbage cans as water cascaded down through the ceiling when it rained or the snow melted. On a tour back then, similar to the “town hall” the district recently had to discuss information regarding a capital improvement bond, the counselor’s office was a closet. Back then Tonasket had outgrown its school buildings and they were coming apart. Voting in 1993 to build new schools was farsighted on the part of the district’s voters back then and it solved the issues of day.
The district has come so far, constructing three new school buildings — but that’s been over 20 years ago. Now voters are being asked to make additional improvements. Not because maintenance has been lacking as it was back then — district voters regularly and generously pass M&O Levies to handle upkeep — but to meet an expanding student population. In addition some of the facilities just aren’t up to what they should be, even though they weren’t built that long ago.
Now instead of water flowing from the ceilings into the hallways and the counselor in a closet, you can see students at the elementary using hallways and closets as classrooms. The middle school too is facing growing enrollment and needs room for its students. At the high school the district needs to expand shop space to offer more programs for kids who are pursuing a vocational education. And the Outreach and Choice High Schools, which offer alternative learning programs, are in a portable classroom that was built before I graduated from high school. That’s old.
You can read about the tour our reporter Katie Teachout took of the facilities in this week’s issue on page A5, as well as an informational ad that lays out where the district is lacking and why voters are being asked for a 12-year capital improvement bond of nearly $10 million.
The lion’s share of what is being asked of the voters who live within the school district, will go toward the elementary and middle schools which are in need of one of the basics of education, classroom space. Being packed into overcrowded classrooms, or closets or hallways, is not a good learning environment.
We encourage the voters of Tonasket to support these improvements for the children of the community. Kids are the future and deserve a chance to learn in the best possible environment the community can afford. And while it may sound like a lot of money the plan wasn’t come up with by just the school board. It is the product of many facilities committee meetings. It pays more for what is needed, than what is wanted.
The facilities improvement bond to build the new buildings was paid off in 2013. Those additions to the property tax have been gone for nearly four years now. If voters approve the current request then it will add an additional $2.22 per $1000 of evaluation. Added together with the current levy pay-back amount that’s $5.55 per $1000 total for schools. It’s a lot to ask, but not too much considering it is for the children of the community who will go on to represent Tonasket now and into the future, helping them to be productive citizens.
Vote for the Tonasket Facilities Improvement, vote for the children’s future.