Our Port Angeles community is generous and spirited. I’ve asked myself again, why we are not investing in our Port Angeles Schools?
Let me take you back to 2003 when our community packed the re-opening of Jefferson Elementary School — the joy, smiles and chatter in every square inch of the facility celebrating what we did as a community.
I will never forget going into the kindergarten room and seeing the state-of-the-art learning equipment for our children and saying to myself. “Now this is the pride of Port Angeles. Just think, these kindergarten kids will soar to new learning heights.”
We have not invested in any capital project since 2003. This means an entire school generation of kids have not experienced what a new school with new equipment means to their learning.
When we enrolled Jeremiah at PAHS in 1993, I inquired then when the high school would be rebuilt.
I had a granddaughter attend Franklin Elementary 15 years ago and had the same concerns.
Now, I have many friends with their children at Stevens Middle School and I just shake my head at the condition.
This is not good enough — it’s not safe!
Our school buildings are 1950s and ’60s construction. Methods then were not meant to go past a 25-year life cycle, let alone 60 and 70 years later.
We as individuals invest in everything we want — our homes, our cars, our phones. Why would we not invest in our schools?
I have worked on many economic development projects and the number one question I get from current employers, potential employers, professionals, doctors and military personnel is what the plan is for our schools. I have to respond, “Well, we just keep saying no.”
Peninsula College finally replaced those 1960 buildings. It is an amazing place now to go to school. We formed a parks district so we would retain the swimming pool and finally that 1950s pool is being rebuilt. We said Yes.
You want new jobs and new employers? Then let’s rebuild our schools.
Our school facilities are used by the entire community. Do you understand that structurally those buildings will not survive a strong earthquake?
Shall we all sit here and do nothing, fully knowing the risk of those buildings, not to mention the environmental issues of asbestos and unreinforced concrete causing structures to shift over time?
Building methods have substantially improved and yes it costs money — it is what it is!
I could write and debate the costs and the tax evaluation — do you know that when our total community assessed value is higher that our overall rate goes down? I could write about changing the way the state funds schools and that needs to change.
I do know I can vote Yes and make something finally happen for our schools.
Generations of our community have always voted Yes to have the best schools.
I ask all generations now to step to the plate and continue to invest in our community.
You asked for an oversight committee and process and that happened. More than 150 community members have spent many hours reviewing and recommending improvements and replacements.
They also recommended maximizing dollars from the state, minimizing the burden on local taxpayers and providing a long-range, performance-based plan with a consistent rate. This plan does just that and it begins with the 2020 capital levy.
You asked for accountability. You’ll have it. Voters decide every five to six years whether to continue the performance-based plan and community-based Facilities Advisory Board.
These children are the future of our community. You complain they leave, well show them a reason to stay.
Recently the tent over the skating rink collapsed. Do you know who showed up to help? Our PAHS students, sports teams and JROTC program.
They answered the call.
Now it’s our turn!
Karen Rogers is a former mayor of Port Angeles and a small business owner.