The South Whidbey School Board has come up with two levy proposals to which it’s easy for voters to say “yes.”
After all, the school buildings need to be maintained, something that hasn’t been done as well as it should in recent years of declining enrollment and declining budgets. School staff have done an outstanding job of working with what they have, but duct tape and glue guns can’t hold the buildings together forever.
The maintenance and operation levy asks for no more than the present amount of $3.9 million per year, at an estimated levy rate of $1.04 per thousand.
The capital and technologies levy does ask for more, but more is needed in both areas. Technology keeps advancing and our students have to keep up. The recent experiment in purchasing iPads for seventh-graders was a bold idea but both students and teachers seem to be benefitting. Students must leave the South Whidbey School District with a solid background in technology, otherwise they’ll be left behind in the competition for good jobs and good colleges.
Superintendent Jo Moccia recently described Langley Middle School as “the elephant in the room,” as the idea of moving the dwindling population to the high school was shot down by voters in 2010 who were worried about the price tag. The fate of the Langley complex is still uncertain, but the buildings need to be maintained in the meantime. So too with South Whidbey High School, the original structure of which is now more than 30 years old. Even the newer addition needs work as time and the elements are taking their toll.
The community might want to take another look at the middle school campus. Years ago the school board saw the end was inevitable and purchased land on Maxwelton Road for a new middle school. With approval of the new levy, it will give us more time to consider the future. Selling the whole Langley complex might be worth considering. We have great planners, architects and futurists living on South Whidbey. Gather some together for ideas. It could become a combination of housing, an arts mecca and community center all in one while middle school students get a new facility all their own.
Whatever the future, we must address the present needs of the South Whidbey School District. Vote yes for both levies, and remember to return those ballots no later than Feb. 12.