A replacement levy that would generate $35.4 million over four years for technology and safety improvements in Olympia School District was passing based on early returns in Tuesday’s special election.
As of 8 p.m., the measure was passing with 68 percent of the vote. School district levies require a simple majority to pass.
The money would be used to develop more online curriculum, buy enough laptops so that there is one for every student in grades 3-12, and train teachers on how to use technology in the classroom.
As for safety improvements, the district would install a system on school buses to track when students get on and off, upgrade school bus radios from analog to digital, and install paging and intercom systems in schools.
“We just feel really fortunate we have a supportive community,” said Olympia School District Superintendent Patrick Murphy. “We’re really excited to increase our students’ access to technology, improve safety and prepare our students for tomorrow.”
An existing technology levy that brought in about $13.2 million over four years expires this year.
Even with the increase, officials say the total rate for school levies from 2019 to 2022 compared to 2017 would be the same or lower. That’s because the district’s maintenance and operations levy is set to go down in 2019 because lawmakers last year capped local levies as part of a new funding plan for Washington’s K-12 schools.
Yelm Community Schools bond
Yelm Community Schools’ $76 million construction bond measure to rebuild two schools and add onto a third was coming up short in early results from Tuesday’s special election.
Bonds require 60 percent of voters to say “yes” to pass and for turnout to be at least 40 percent of turnout in the previous year’s general election.
Yelm’s measure met the turnout requirement but only had 59 percent approval as of 8 p.m.
“You've got to be cautiously optimistic at this point. ... We still have a chance to pass this,” said Teri Pablo, the district’s communications director.
Most of the construction would happen at Yelm Middle School, Southworth Elementary School and Prairie Elementary School. The district also would make security upgrades at other schools.
Officials say the work is needed to alleviate crowding. The district has grown by more than 1,300 students since its last bond passed in 2003.
Voters rejected smaller bond measures for building projects in 2015 and 2016.
Even if the bond passes, the district says the overall school tax rate would likely decline. Just like in Olympia, the district’s maintenance and operations levy is set to go down in 2019 under the new local levies cap.