Letter: Students deserve safe and healthy schools

Dear Editor,

I’m writing in regards to Mr. Adsley “Sound Off” about the school bond. It raised a great clarification that we (parents of South Whidbey) have been trying to shout from the rooftops. The ballot measure coming before you in November is a bond, not a levy. While levies can support student instruction, bonds cannot.

The school bond is about fixing critical infrastructure so our children can go to school in a healthy and safe environment. The district has been doing regular maintenance on its facilities and buildings, but doesn’t have funding for big ticket repairs. The state instructs districts to issue a bond for this work; our district hasn’t passed a bond since the 1990s. What would your home look like, Mr. Adsley, if you hadn’t made regular investments or major repairs for over 30 years? Likely not good, and our schools are no different.

Our middle/high school has a roof that is leaking into classrooms and an exterior facade that I’m sure most would agree is looking more than a little tired these days. Our elementary school needs a new HVAC system. And yes, the bond includes a turf field for the high school. If you’d like to debate the pros and cons of grass vs. turf there are compelling arguments for and against both — the district has had this debate ad nauseam and has come to a decision. It’s time to move forward.

The finances of the bond measure can be found on the school district’s website and are as transparent as any bond measure can or should be. The district has put much thought into making sure this bond does not burden the folks in our community who are struggling the most. In 2024, it will be easier to qualify for property tax relief. Residents who are 61 or older or military disabled or disabled, who own their own home and have an income of less than $54,000 can apply for an exemption.

Are there important improvements the district needs to make in instruction and student learning? Resoundingly yes, we agree Mr. Adsley. But that is not what this bond is for. Let’s focus the conversation on the intent of this bond measure. Students deserve safe and healthy places to do their best learning. Let’s not punish them because we’re not happy with other aspects of how the district is running schools.

The years of being able to eke by with deferred maintenance have come to a head and now it’s time to act. Say yes to the bond to keep our school facilities vibrant for student learning.

Emily Neff