After 27 years, Tenino should pass school bond

The OlympianMarch 27, 2014 

FILE - A first-grader at Parkside Elementary School in Tenino, listens to speakers in 2000 during a rally in support of the Tenino School District. (Tony Overman/Staff file)

TONY OVERMAN

The Tenino School District believes its recent $38 million bond measure would have passed in February’s special election if they had more effectively communicated to all registered voters. They’re right — and wise to try the bond again so quickly April 22.

It appears the Campaign for Tenino Schools neglected to mail informational brochures for the February campaign to district residents who live in Olympia or Rainier ZIP codes. Had the campaign adequately informed those people, it might have received the additional 80 votes necessary to reach the required 60 percent supermajority.

Tenino School Board President Trisha Claridge says a post-election analysis has revealed that some people with non-Tenino ZIP codes either didn’t vote or voted no because they didn’t fully understand the scope of the bond measure.

The district hasn’t passed a bond measure in 27 years, since 1987, so inexperience might have caused the campaign mailing glitch. That’s too bad because elections are expensive, and the need to remodel Tenino school buildings is urgent.

Almost all Tenino schools have exterior entrances to every classroom. During an era of crazed shooters targeting schools, that’s a serious safety issue. Modern schools must have controlled single points of entry.

The district also wants to create more secure zones for parents to pick up and drop off their children.

Few of the district’s buildings attain satisfactory levels of energy efficiency. As a result, the district is wasting taxpayer dollars every month on power bills. Asbestos flooring tiles from the 1970s are starting to lift throughout Tenino Elementary and Middle School. Electrical systems and roofing need repairs or replacements.

And, like other Thurston County school districts that did pass bonds and levies in February, Tenino wants to upgrade classroom technology to a standard necessary for its students to compete.

The bond would expand and renovate the district’s elementary schools and its middle school, and construct a new gymnasium at Tenino High School.

Claridge said the board and campaign organizers “learned valuable lessons with the bond campaign in February and felt like we could do a better job of informing our voters so that they can make an educated decision.”

Waiting another year or two isn’t an option when it comes to student safety. Who knows what could happen in the interim? No one could have predicted the shootings in Connecticut or Colorado.

The Tenino School District has been conservative in asking voters for improvements. The district paid off the 1987 bond in 2007, giving taxpayers seven years of relief before seeking additional funds.

We support the school board’s decision to take the issue back to voters. We also urge Tenino citizens to accept the offers for campaign advice from Olympia, North Thurston or Tumwater schools.

Tenino residents not currently registered to vote have until April 14 to register in person at the Thurston County Auditor’s office on Lakeridge Drive in Olympia.

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