School board approves $45 million bond election

Published on Wed, Aug 27, 2014 by Ian Ferguson

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A $45 million bond to fund capital improvements at the Blaine School District is headed to voters after the school board unanimously approved the final version at their regular meeting August 25.

The bond would fund an expansion and modernization of the high school, an addition to the primary school to provide space for full-time kindergarten and other capital improvements and maintenance requirements. Voters in the district will vote on the measure on February 10, 2015. A pamphlet explaining the measure will be mailed to voters three weeks before the vote.

Approximately $38 million of the bond would go towards a 72,000-square-foot addition and renovation of the high school. Bond initiatives to rebuild the high school were defeated by voters in 2008 and 2011 although voters approved a $3 million measure to rebuild the science building in 2012. 

Administrators say the rest of the buildings in the high school have deteriorated since the previously attempted bonding measures.

“We’re asking the public to support what we urgently need,” said superintendent Ron Spanjer in a phone call after the meeting. 

Spanjer said the district has endeavored to schedule the new bond so it doesn’t layer on top of existing bonds, which will expire in 2016. “By waiting for the previous bond to roll out before the new bond takes effect, we’ll be able to keep the tax obligation constant,” Spanjer said. 

The school district has asked for feedback regarding the bonding measure since it was announced in June. So far most of the few comments the district has received have been from Birch Bay residents who would like to see an elementary school in Birch Bay.

“There continues to be interest in getting a timeline in place for an elementary school in Birch Bay,” Spanjer said. “We just don’t have the enrollment numbers to support that consideration right now. In 2005 we had enrollment projections that were 650 students higher than what we currently have, and in fact our enrollment is still 100 students below our peak level in 2005. If and when the time comes to build a new elementary school, in today’s dollars it would cost around $30 million.”

A proposed addition of eight classrooms to the primary school, included in the bond initiative, is aimed at accommodating full-time kindergarten. State law requires voluntary full-day kindergarten to be fully implemented throughout Washington by the 2017-18 school year. The move from part-time to full-time kindergarten would require extra staffing as well as extra space. State funding for the extra staffing requirements could become available as soon as 2016.

The home page of the school district’s website provides information on the bond initiative, with a link to a list of the projects it would fund. For more information, go to blainesd.org.