Peninsula school board considers funding options

Schools: Directors decide on five future funding options to take to voters

of the GatewayJanuary 15, 2014 

It’s going to be a busy year for the Peninsula School District Board of Directors.

The board had its annual retreat Thursday night and its first regular meeting of the year. It was a four-hour marathon of planning, policy and recognition.

The board is gearing up for another request for public funding. After the $50 million capital levy failed in November, the board discuss ways of returning to the public with another proposal. Directors chose five funding options to present at three public meetings.

The earliest a levy or bond could appear on a ballot is April.

The board’s options are:

 • A $52.5 million, four-year levy with the same project list as this past November. It’s more money because the price of replacing Artondale Elementary has increased with inflation.

 • An alternative $43.1 million, four-year levy, which would renovate instead of replace Artondale.

 • A $55.9 million, five-year levy, which would remodel instead of rebuild Artondale and upgrade Key Peninsula Middle School.

 • An alternative 46.5 million, five-year levy, which would also upgrade Key Peninsula Middle School and renovate rather than replace Artondale.

 • A combination of a $10 million, two-year levy with a $61.5 million bond. The levy would be split into $5 million a year, and the bond would likely be financed over 20 years.

The combination approach was put together at the meeting. Peninsula School District Superintendent Chuck Cuzzetto said he would have per-year estimates by the time of the public meetings.

Artondale is at the center of the discussion. Had the levy passed last year, Artondale would have had a new building. Now, there are options on the table to remodel rather than raze it.

There’s no alternative to a new elementary school in Gig Harbor North.

Board member Matt Wilkinson thinks it’s time for a new school to replace “cobbled together” Artondale. Proposals for a smaller levy that would fund technology appeals to Wilkinson, but he said it’s time to build.

“As much as I like the idea of that new-computer smell, I think we’re doing a disservice to the students at Artondale and Purdy,” he said.

The question of new development in Gig Harbor North hasn’t yielded much common ground between the board and the opposition, which defines the community as growing older. It sees no evidence that new, young families will move in.

Jerry Gibbs, of Citizens for Responsible School Spending, addressed the board about the overcrowding issue and the needs laid out in the bond. The citizens group recently surveyed its supporters and sent its results to the school board. About 30 people were interviewed in the survey, Gibbs said.

Among grievances, the survey said the board failed to explore alternatives for funding, show need for a new school and provide benefits for the Key Peninsula area. The group is strongly opposed to a Gig Harbor North school because, in its opinion, the area is aging.

The group’s survey said the board did not do a “true demographics study.” Instead, it relied on data from building permits, according to the survey.

There is an overcrowding situation that will need to be resolved before a new levy or any remodeling or building will occur.

The board also is beginning the redistricting process. Board members Wendy Wojtaniwicz and Wilkinson will be on the committee to lead the effort. There are still community spots available, Cuzzetto said.

It wasn’t all policy speak at the meeting. Kopachuck Middle School librarian Hoa Weale won the Ellen Fay award, which is named for a longtime PSD human resources administrator who helped everyone, every day, Cuzzetto said.

That description fits Weale, who is an integral part of everyday life at Kopachuck, Principal Iva Scott said.

“Because Hoa reads all the books, every student at Kopachuck runs to Hoa to discuss new authors and get recommendations,” Scott said. “Her favorite challenge seems to be getting students who don’t think they like to read into quality books that will hold their attention.”

Weale, nervous at the prospect of public speaking, told the board she was honored. Two students brought her a large bouquet of flowers and held up a handmade congratulations sign.

The board’s next regular meeting will be held at 6 p.m. Jan. 23 at Goodman Middle School. Two more community meetings to discuss funding options are scheduled for 6:30 p.m. tonight at the Cheney Family branch of the Boys & Girls Club, and for 6:30 p.m. Thursday at Goodman Middle School.

The community meeting at Goodman will have childcare available.

Reporter Karen Miller can be reached at 253-358-4155 or by email at karen.miller@gateline.com. Follow her on Twitter, @gateway_karen.

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