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South Whidbey School District won't seek bond in May

LANGLEY - South Whidbey School District Superintendent Fred McCarthy asked the school board Wednesday night to hold off on a proposed bond measure to help pay for the move of Langley Middle School students to the high school campus.

"I don't think we can run an issue in May because there is too much conflict going on in the district," he said.

McCarthy said the district should put a $12 million bond proposal before voters next year, and also offered a new plan for shifting students to the high school campus as South End schools are consolidated.

McCarthy said grades six, seven and eight should be moved to South Whidbey High School.

The recommendation was different than the one previously suggested by McCarthy to staff two weeks ago. That option focused on combining grades 7-12 at the high school campus, and moving the sixth grade to the primary school.

Before a packed and generally hostile crowd at the elementary school on Wednesday, McCarthy said that, while a bond issue will be needed, it would likely fail if placed on the ballot on May 18 as previously planned.

Instead, he said the measure should go before voters on either Aug. 17, Nov. 2 or Feb. 8. McCarthy prefers the latter option.

He told the school board that all indications are that the Washington economy, especially on South Whidbey, will be worse next year and enrollment will continue to decline.

"There is no light at the end of the tunnel for local businesses," McCarthy said. "We have to cut another $1.5 million from our budget, on top of the $1.85 million we trimmed last year."

He reiterated that profound demographic changes — the district will lose another 120 students next year — have forced the district to close the middle school and consolidate students and programs at the high school.

The board took no action, but reached consensus that it would not place the bond before voters in May.

District officials have said a bond measure is needed to help pay for the consolidation effort and to fund vital upgrades in district schools. Officials had earlier said the bond measure might range between $25.7 million and $32.7 million.

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