PORT ANGELES — Students from Port Angeles High School recently testified in Olympia, telling state lawmakers that there is a need to remove the supermajority needed to pass school construction bonds.
Port Angeles High School senior Andrew Pena, senior Hailey Robinson and sophomore Abby Sanders, as well as Superintendent Martin Brewer, testified Feb. 6 before the Senate education subcommittee about having a simple majority for school construction bonds.
Pena, Robinson and Sanders detailed their experiences at Port Angeles High School where they said leaks are common, heaters are so loud students can’t hear teachers and clean water is a luxury.
“Though I am graduating this year and there isn’t much you can do to help me, there are all the other kids growing up in our district you can help,” Robinson told the committee.
“For whatever reason, people in our community that would be providing us with a new school with the help of passing a bond and levy don’t see the problems at Port Angeles High School because they think if it’s still standing, why fix it.”
Two bills in the state Senate would lower the threshold needed to pass a bond.
Currently bonds require a 60 percent supermajority vote. There must also be a 40 percent voter turnout based on the number of votes cast in the most recent general election.
One bill would amend the state constitution to reduce the 60 percent requirement to 55 percent. Another bill would allow a simple majority — 50 percent plus one vote — to authorize school district bonds.
They weren’t the only students from Port Angeles to visit the capitol. Recently students from Lincoln High School visited Olympia to meet with Reps. Mike Chapman, D-Port Angeles, and Steve Tharinger, D-Port Townsend, both of whom represent the District 24, which covers Clallam and Jefferson counties and part of Grays Harbor County.
Brewer told lawmakers that the Port Angeles School District has zero debt and has not been able to pass a capital campaign since 2001. A levy that would have funded renovations at Stevens Middle School failed last year and a $98 million bond proposal failed in 2015.
A 2008 study indicated the district had nearly $200 million in facility needs, he said.
“We have a failing middle school, elementary schools and high school,” Brewer said.
Pena told the committee that Port Angeles High School has 11 buildings and has not seen any significant renovation since the school was built 65 years ago.
“The buildings are not 21st-century buildings,” Pena said. “Quite recently a teacher’s classroom caved in on itself forcing students to move to a different classroom to study.”
Sanders and Robinson both talked about the quality of drinking water at Port Angeles High School. Robinson said water is sometimes a “orange musky color” and Sanders said there are not enough drinking fountains.
They both spoke of the loud heaters in the classrooms as well.
Sanders said students must choose between “a warm and inviting classroom during the frigid months of winter or an education experience where you can actually hear the teacher.”
She said she feels her community does not value education because when she travels to other districts for extracurricular activities she sees the types of facilities they have.
“When I visit other schools for extracurricular events, I see the amazing facilities they have,” she said. “Fellow 2A schools have their own football and softball fields, warm buildings and a modern design meant to interface with 21st-century technology.”
Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at [email protected] dailynews.com.