Our Voice: The Herald recommends approving Kennewick bond

Kennewick school officials seem confident voters will approve an $89.5 million bond on Feb. 10. Ballots will be arriving soon.

And judging from the presentation they have been showing residents and civic groups in the community, they have good reason. School officials have done a great job of explaining why the money is needed and how it will be spent.

What won’t be so easy if 60 percent of those voting agree to support the bond will be some of the difficult decisions the district will have to make because of it, including redrawing elementary and middle school boundaries.

If passed, the bond would pay to build two new elementary schools in south and west Kennewick, a new Desert Hills Middle School at a new location, a new building for Westgate Elementary, and a new middle school on Southridge Boulevard.

Enrollments are climbing, more kids are being housed in portable buildings and schools that did not benefit from the last bond continue to decline and age. Desert Hills, opened in 1977, is landlocked, has structural challenges and an outdated design compromising safety and the flow of students from one building to another. Westgate, circa 1952, is the last of the existing elementary schools in need of modernization.

So what is the bond’s impact for voters in the district? About 22 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value. With an average home in the district worth about $200,000, that would amount to about $44 a year.

That seems like a small price to pay for better learning centers for our kids.

Kennewick has a lot going for it. It has managed its bond money well in recent years, and completed everything schedule for the $68 million bond passed in 2009. And because of some favorable economic shifts, it had enough money left over from the bond to build a new Eastgate Elementary as well. It has used similar school designs where it can, saving on the cost of building plans and architects for each project. And it has shovel-ready projects that could be put out to bid immediately after the election should the bond pass.

School officials have done their homework and waged one of the strongest educational campaigns for a bond that we have seen in recent memory. They have proven they can build and rebuild schools in rapid succession to meet the needs of the district and have a strong track record and a lot of recent experience.

Sure, there will be some challenges that come with the package. Redrawing school boundaries always causes some friction in the community, but it’s a necessary function when new schools are built.

Voters should support the bond and maintain the positive momentum for Kennewick schools and students.

The Tri-City Herald recommends voters approve the Kennewick School District bond.