By MICHELLE KUSS-CYBULA
On Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14, 2023, Oak Harbor Public Schools will be asking our local voters to consider supporting a bond for $121 million that would replace three aging school buildings, enhance safety and security at all schools, and address critical needs of the community. If supported, this bond would be joined by matching funds from the Department of Defense and the State of Washington.
Due to the school’s serious capacity limitations, age, compromised infrastructure and poor conditions in comparison to other public schools on military installations in the United States, Crescent Harbor Elementary and Hand-in-Hand/HomeConnection are eligible for 80% reimbursement from the Department of Defense to rebuild these schools. Due to the condition of Oak Harbor Elementary’s south building, the state will pay 7% reimbursement to help build a school on the Fort Nugent property owned by the school district.
During the past two months, we have met with several community groups, individuals and businesses to help answer questions as well as inform the community about what this bond is truly about. We have heard many people ask, “Why do we need new schools?”
Twenty years ago, our community overwhelmingly came out and supported a bond for a new high school, which would cost more than $120 million to build today. The high school is now the largest community gathering place on the island. There isn’t a night that the Student Union Building or the stadium isn’t used for community or school use. Without that commitment from our community then, we would not be able to benefit in the incredible community space that we share today.
At the end of this month, our high school bond will be paid off and the needs of our other schools are now a priority because these sites are past the point of renovation. Our facilities and maintenance team have done an outstanding job stretching every dollar that our community invests in our district to carefully maintain our buildings. Unfortunately, the time has come to replace these aging schools. In addition, this bond measure prioritizes safety and security at all schools, and includes a much needed third school to reduce overcrowding in our elementary schools.
I invite you to come visit our schools to get a glimpse into these aging schools. Tours are available on the following dates and times:
Jan. 4 at 5:30 p.m. – Hand-in-Hand/HomeConnection
Jan. 5 at 5:30 p.m. – Oak Harbor Elementary/Crescent Harbor Elementary (Meet at OHE)
We will also be hosting a State of the Schools event that will include student performances and a showcase of our schools and priorities. The event is on Jan. 11, 2023, from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. at OHHS Student Union Building. Please RSVP at https://bit.ly/sotsohps2023.
I hope the Oak Harbor community will take the opportunities available to learn more about our schools and the upcoming bond measure. We have posted site photos and the current proposal on our website www.ohsd.net/bond2023. Please take the time to learn more and ask questions.
Michelle Kuss-Cybula is superintendent of Oak Harbor Public Schools.