QUILCENE — Just two months after it narrowly missed reaching a 60 percent supermajority, the Quilcene School District will return to voters with a $12.3 million bond measure.
It also comes with the support of the Board of Jefferson County Commissioners, who encouraged voters with a resolution on Monday to pass the April 26 bond, which will help build a new elementary school to replace the current one, build a new Career and Technical Education (CTE) facility and make improvements to the athletic fields.
The bond will be repaid from annual property taxes over the next 20 years at $1.74 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, if passed.
“We know the majority of the residents in our Quilcene taxing district are in support of the measure,” Superintendent Frank Redmon said. “We believe that, this time around, more folks will have the opportunity to vote. So I think it comes down to everyone who wants to have a voice needs to have a voice. So we are trying to make sure that we are pushing out more awareness both about the bond and what we are trying to accomplish.”
Jefferson County Commissioner Kate Dean recognized some people might be holding back support for the measure due to the potential impact on taxpayers.
“I know there are a lot of folks struggling right now, everywhere, including south county, so I understand the concerns,” Dean said. “What I hear a lot of is — and everyone in county government hears — how high their taxes are, and I’d like to point out that we are actually middle of the road in this state, and property taxes look a little bit higher because we don’t have an income tax.”
“So, knowing we need to get those funds from somewhere to fund the functions of government, we are smack dab in the middle,” she continued. “We are No. 24 in terms of the total property tax burden in Washington state. We are not excessively higher than anyone else, and the benefits of the work the Quilcene School District wants to do, I think just can’t be overstated.”
The Quilcene Elementary School was built in 1946 with an addition in 1948, but Redmon said the school should have been replaced or rebuilt in the 1990s.
“It’s an aging structure that was built for a type of education that does not exist anymore,” Redmon said.
“We need to rethink how education is done,” he added. “We expect our students to be able to work collaboratively, we expect them to be problem-solvers, we expect them to think about their education more holistically, and when we have a building that is set up to keep them isolated, in small spaces apart from each other, it makes all of those things a little more difficult.”
When Redmond was hired as superintendent four years ago, the only CTE program at the school was a professional cooking class. Since then, an agriculture CTE program has been added and the district is looking to introduce a shop and other CTE programs, but it is lacking space.
“Our older students that are preparing to move out of high school and into career fields or going on to college, we need to make sure that they have some experiences so they know those careers might feel like,” Redmon said. “How it would feel for them to weld or work on an engine or to nail together a wall. All these things that we are asking from our community to provide services for the rest of the community.”
Quilcene’s hasn’t passed a bond measure since 1998. That led to the creation of its multi-purpose room and the demolition of its existing shop space, and it ended pre-existing CTE programs like woodshop and mechanic shop.
“We are very proud of our vocational cooking program,” Redmon said. “It’s a model throughout the state, but it doesn’t get to all of those areas that we think are important for students to have experience with, so our second area is that career and technical education building.”
Redmon boasted about the district’s outstanding athletic performance but noted it often cannot host athletic events due to the condition of the athletic fields, which were built to Little League standards and do not meet current standards set by the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association.
“There are a couple of different ways to talk about why this is important,” he said. “The first is, from an educational perspective, we have our students outdoors on the fields as much as possible, and they’re bumpy and soggy or they’re hard and dry, and they’re not well irrigated or drained, and they’re not well crowned or leveled. All those things need to get fixed so our students can have a better educational experience out on the fields.
”The other is because we have state-level participation in athletics every year, and yet we can’t play a playoff game on our home field.”
Reporter Ken Park can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.