The Arlington School District’s $107.5 million bond measure will return on the Nov. 6 ballot after failing to pass in February.
In the February Special Election, 55.89 percent of voters approved the measure, however bonds require 60 percent approval to pass.
That same measure will be on the Nov. 6 General Election ballot.
If passed, the school district would add safety and security improvements to every school in the district, rebuild Post Middle School, add eight classrooms and a workshop room to Arlington High School, and install fire sprinklers at Eagle Creek Elementary.
A number of other miscellaneous projects are part of the bond, including heating and ventilation improvements at seven schools, improving traffic safety at three schools, and improving athletic fields and/or playgrounds at five schools.
District officials talked with local parents after the last bond failed to pass and felt the best course was to try the bond again.
The biggest issues people had concerns or questions with were the taxes and the construction of a new Post Middle School.
“People were confused about taxes because at the same time we were running our bond election, the taxes because of the McCleary decision had changed,” said Brian Lewis, executive director of operations at the district.
The McCleary decision was a Washington State Supreme Court case which mandated that the state legislature must provide better funding to schools.
Property taxes went into effect this year because of that decision that raised most residents' tax bill as the state was collecting more money. Next year all state school districts’ ability to tax is being reduced to offset that increase.
The tax from the bond would replace the district’s expiring bond, meaning tax levels would be less than 2017 levels if the proposed bond was passed.
The necessity of replacing Post Middle School was also questioned by many locals, said Lewis.
He said that the quality of education suffers because of the old building.
“We’re limited to what we can do in there, especially when compared to Haller Middle School,” said Lewis. “The building cannot provide adequate electrical capacity."
It is the district’s only building that is not seismic resistant as well.
“It does not have a steel structure in it to preserve it during an earthquake,” he said.
Without a centralized building like most campuses, the heating system is splintered off into 22 different heat pumps around the school.
“We’ve got 22 different systems that we have to maintain and provide electricity for it. It’s much more complicated and expensive to do that rather than have one centralized heating system,” said Lewis.
A new Post Middle School would be built on the same site and current classrooms would not have to be interrupted.
“Utilities would be stubbed out on one end so that we could add another wing to it in the future if we need to,” said Lewis.
The lack of interior doorways and hallways also makes Post Middle School much harder to make safe and secure as well, said Lewis.
Lewis added that number of projects on safety and security was a big plus for many of the community members they talked to.
“It’s our responsibility as a school district to provide safety and security,” he said. “To care for these students as if they were our own children."
Those security improvements include secured entryways for all schools, security cameras and interior door locks so that classrooms can be secured from the inside.
Many of Arlington’s schools are seeing increasing attendance, said Lewis, which is projected to continue.
“We’re adding portables to our schools, and that’s an indicator that we’re going to need to build a fifth elementary school eventually,” he said.
Matching funds from a Post Middle School construction would be used to acquire a site for that elementary school, he said.
By 2021 Arlington High School is projected to have 200 to 300 more kids, said Lewis, so those eight classrooms could be needed soon.
“The time to add classrooms is now, otherwise we’re going to be extremely constrained in that building,” said Lewis.
The last few years have seen increasing construction costs so another bond failure would likely see increased costs for the projects if done at a later date.
“If we pass it now we’ll save money in the long run. Construction costs and interest rates are only going to go up,” said Lewis.
“If we brought back the same package in February there is an $8 million increase in cost just because of escalation costs,” he said.
If the bond fails again, Lewis said that the district will continue working on the safety and security projects “whatever way we can do it.”
More information about the bond is available at the district’s website at asd.wednet.edu/bond. The district has prepared five videos detailing aspects of the bond, available at that page or at the Arlington Public Schools' Youtube channel.