Friends and neighbors, on a farm just west of Lynden is an old Chevy pickup that would be familiar to many of you and would fit right in driving around any local field or dairy. It’s been loved and used hard, especially by several previous owners. The paint is fading, but the rust isn’t too noticeable yet. The upholstery barely qualifies for its intended use. The bench seat used to be great for two adults but now there is a family of five vying for space in the cab, plus four neighbor kids riding in back. The heater either blows nothing or pure hot air, but if you leave the rear slider cracked it isn’t too bad. The tires are still doing their job, but a new set isn’t far off. The engine was rebuilt several years back and despite regular maintenance and oil changes, that pesky drip on the garage floor won’t go away. The wish list of repairs is getting longer every year, but other critical priorities win the fight for money and resources.
The old truck has a hearty rumble, rattles down the driveway and smells like old tractor exhaust, but mostly invokes a smile anytime the owners drive it. It’s familiar. Nostalgic. It doesn’t do anything particularly well but mostly good enough to keep around. Not bad considering it was the best money could buy — in 1968.
Folks, it’s not disingenuous to say we are very nearly in the same situation with two of our schools in Lynden as our farm family is with the old pickup. Many of our kids are being educated in buildings that are the equivalent of modern mini-vans while kids at Fisher Elementary and Lynden Middle School are stuck in decades-old museum pieces. Is that fair? Is that safe? Is that “good enough”?
We are not advocating replacing Fisher and Lynden Middle School simply because they are old. Rather, these buildings have reached the end of their useful lives as schools. Like an old truck, they have terminal issues in regard to age, overcrowding and safety — issues that increased maintenance, new remodels or a fresh coat of paint simply won’t solve. These schools were built to different standards several decades ago that simply don’t meet our needs today. Installing new systems in these outdated school designs makes about as much sense, practically and financially, as retrofitting airbags, in-dash navigation and anti-lock brakes in the old Chevy.
In our view, it is short-sighted of us as a community to debate about how property was purchased, or whether past maintenance has been adequate, or even the total cost of the bond. These are all certainly very important concerns and not to be simply cast aside. But contrary to some vocal criticism in this very paper, we believe the Lynden school district has in fact done “enough 360 thinking” regarding costs and options. They are not only proposing construction costs well below the state square foot average, the proposed combined bond and levy rate will still be the fourth lowest in Whatcom and Skagit counties — lower even than 15 years ago. Should we also mention that district residents are not currently paying on any construction bonds, nor have they since 2010?
If the arguments against this proposal are to win the day and we face another bond failure, what are we left with? The critical needs of these schools will not have gone away. Costs will inevitably continue to increase; far from being a “scare tactic”, we feel that anticipating historical average increases is the only responsible thing to assume. Lynden Middle School will be at double capacity very shortly; double the number of people living in your home and ask yourself how workable that is long-term. How much longer can we argue? How much longer can we wait?
All of us have benefitted from hard choices made by fellow Lyndenites. We live in a beautiful community because of their foresight and, yes, sacrifice. This bond is plainly one of those hard choices. Our kids and our town deserve this. It’s time for us to look forward and re-invest for the next several decades. Please vote Yes on April 28. Thank you.