Our Voice: Ki-Be students paying the price after school levy fails

A combination of unfortunate reasons likely led to the recent failure of the Kiona-Benton City School District levy, but regardless of the cause, it’s a shame.

The students deserved better, and now they are the ones paying the price for the community’s lack of support.

Last month, school district officials placed a $750,000 capital levy on the ballot to replace the timeworn portable classrooms at the elementary and middle schools.

Superintendent Wade Haun said a few months ago that he attended classes in those same portables; that’s how old they are. With worn carpets, poor insulation and an ancient heating and cooling system, it was time to get rid of them.

The request was reasonable and should have been approved easily by a majority of voters.

But it wasn’t.

The measure failed with almost 54 percent opposed, according to the Benton County Auditor’s Office. The final tally showed 775 voters in favor and 895 against.

They now have determined the air quality is so poor in the portables that the kids can’t stay there. Students are being forced to squeeze into already overcrowded school buildings, and there is no sign the situation will improve any time soon.

The next possible time to run a levy would be Aug. 4, because the county deadline to submit a request for an election in April already passed.

Although it might be tough to run a school campaign in the summer, Kiona-Benton City school officials may want to consider it. Perhaps community members would rally now that they have seen how desperately the school district needs to replace the old portable classrooms.

School officials have tried to economize where they can. Another portable with five classrooms already had to be removed because of mold, and Haun said the district saved about $60,000 by using volunteers to do the work. He hopes to use volunteers again in tearing down the remaining portable classrooms.

That’s a good example of how Ki-Be citizens can band together. It’s too bad that unity did not extend to approving the levy.

Apathy and lack of information likely contributed to the failed vote, but it is a safe bet some people willfully voted against the levy solely for political reasons.

The school district has had tumultuous times in the past, and there are certainly still pockets of discontent simmering throughout the community. Anyone who voted against the levy because they are harboring hard feelings against school leadership should realize it is the kids they are punishing — not the adults.

All the “no” vote did was make it tougher on students who are now crammed into classes with no extra room.

Kiona-Benton City students deserve a safe and healthy environment in which to learn and study. We hope at their next financial opportunity, Ki-Be voters make kids the priority.