Everett board puts school bond on April 22 ballot

EVERETT — Everett School District voters, who narrowly defeated a $259 million bond issue in February, will be asked to vote again on the measure next month.

Tuesday evening, the school board voted 4-0 to put on the April 22 ballot the very same measure that failed to get required 60 percent approval from voters in a Feb. 11 election. If passed, it would pay for a new high school, an elementary school and a major upgrade to North Middle School, among other capital projects.

Board member Traci Mitchell, who lives in the south end of the district, where rapid development is occurring, said the bond measure needs to be approved to accommodate growth. And additional classrooms are needed so that there’s room for all-day kindergarten, she said.

Board member Caroline Mason noted that some members of the public had questions about why the school board was considering putting the bond issue on the ballot so soon after its defeat.

In the Feb. 11 election, just 25.65 percent of eligible voters participated. The August primary election occurs when many people are on vacation, she said. “Given the poor turnout this last time, I don’t feel very hopeful (about an election) in the month of August,” she said. August would be the next opportunity to place a measure on the ballot after April 22.

Said board member Ted Wenta: “To me, it’s very evident that to provide a first-class learning environment for our students, we need to move forward on this.” Delaying a decision as costs escalate “just does not seem to make fiscal sense.”

Board President Pam LeSesne also voted to put the measure on the ballot in April. Board member Carol Andrews was absent.

Eight members of the public came to speak to the board about the issue. None opposed it.

Before the Feb. 11 vote, Darla Contreras said, she for the first time in two decades was not going to vote yes on a school bond issue. Tuesday night she said she would now support it.

In part, she said, her decision was based on the need for a major upgrade at North Middle School. Several people, including a current staff member, have said that it is not up to par with other middle schools in the district and badly needs improvements. “Inequity really bothers me,” she said.

Mark Nesse, who served on the school board from 1992 to 1999, said he felt putting the issue on the April ballot “is critical for our kids. The need isn’t going to go away,” he said. “The costs are going to go up.”

Nesse said he disagrees with those who said they voted against the bond issue due to their opposition to a previous school board giving the go-ahead to build a new $28.3 million administration building, which opened in November. “It doesn’t make sense,” he said. “It’s punishing the kids for something the last school board did.”

Zack Anders, a student at Jackson High School, said crowding at his school has meant classes keep getting larger and larger, making it difficult to find one-on-one time with teachers.

Neil Palachuk, who teaches a robotics class at Cascade High School, said that most of the work done in robotics classes occurs from September through March. The classrooms are cold, he said, and students sometimes have to wear their coats to stay warm.

After hearing from the public, Wenta said he couldn’t imagine a community without strong schools. “I’m really pleased about what we have to present to the voters,” he said.

Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486 or salyer@heraldnet.com.

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