Last year, Vashon voters smacked down a $27 million bond to upgrade facilities throughout the Vashon Island School District.
For too many islanders, it all just seemed like too much. So our school administrators and board listened, and are now back with another bond proposal, this time with a scaled-back $9.9 million ask. Here are some reasons why you should vote YES to this bond this time.
1) It is one of the least expensive donations you could make to our kids, schools, and community — the increased tax burden of this bond is about $5 per month, if you have a $500,000 home. If you live in such an expensive house, you can afford this. If you don’t, you’ll pay a lot less than the cost of one latte or cheap six-pack per month. Sounds like a pretty good deal to me.
2) Even though we have a beautiful new high school building, it’s important to remember that this bond will pay for fixing a lot of structures, still standing, that are 50-years-old, or older. For instance, the ancient brick “Building F” at the high school needs a new roof. So does the district’s maintenance shop, now housed in a 75-year-old building. And have you taken a look, lately, at Building K on the VHS campus? This more-than-humble low-slung facility is used by our StudentLink and FamilyLink programs. It has a worn-out roof, grimy floor coverings, and bad plumbing. StudentLink and FamilyLink families shouldn’t be second-class citizens in our school district. This building needs immediate restoration to keep it inhabitable, much less up-to-date.
3) Middle school is hard enough without having to deal with broken lockers, worn out furniture and carpets, and locker rooms and showers that have become cluttered storage areas.The exterior paint on the McMurray building is so old that it no longer protects the structure from the elements. If this isn’t bad enough, take a look at the windows. If you’ve ever bitten the bullet to replace leaky, worn-out windows in your own home, you’ll know that it is beyond time to do the same at McMurray Middle School.
4-Let’s talk VHS athletic facilities, since this is the biggest ticket item of the bond. Vashon’s cinder track, so proud and new back in the 1970s, has become a disgrace. The track causes injuries. It doesn’t allow our VHS track teams to compete at home — other schools won’t run on it. It discourages participation in both track and cross country — wonderful sports that not only let our teenagers run like the wind, but also build friendships, memories, and teamwork skills, not to mention their college resumes. The bond will also replace the worn-out field inside the track, and this needs to happen too. That field, quite frankly, is a big mess. The turf is patchy, the soil beneath it is compacted, and the whole thing turns into a mud bog that can’t even be used during much of the rainy season. In dry months, it requires constant watering (at a very high cost) and mowing. The current bond calls for its replacement with a safe and sustainable form of artificial turf — standard now in modern school facilities.
5-Do you love the old grandstand? I do — some of the most memorable moments of my life as a parent have been spent sitting on that old grandstand. But once again, it really isn’t any good anymore. The metal fasteners underneath are deteriorating. And it is not wheelchair accessible — think of the difficulties disabled and elderly people face when even attempting to attend a game or a graduation ceremony. It’s time for a new grandstand, where new memories can be made by islanders of all ages and abilities.
6-Speaking of memories, oh, the kindergarten playground at Chautauqua! I remember, when my twins were toddlers, the play structures seemed so tall and huge. Now, I’m amazed by how small the playground is, and how worn the equipment there looks. Clearly, this tiny patch of playground is inadequate for Chautauqua’s growing ranks of kindergartners — as well as for the next generation of island toddlers who will be brought there after hours by their starry-eyed, new and nervous parents.
So please, vote YES this time around. Our kids and our community are worth it. And remember, it really isn’t going to cost you much to make these very necessary fixes for our schools.
Elizabeth Shepherd is the mother of two teenagers who are members of Vashon High School’s class of 2017.