Even after a tally of late-arriving ballots, a measure that would have helped raise money for Yelm Community Schools to rebuild, expand and update several of its schools was still failing, according to the Thurston County Auditor’s Office.
In a vote count released about 4 p.m. Tuesday, the $59.5 million construction bond measure had received 3,004 “yes” votes, or 52.34 percent approval, from voters in the 192-square mile school district, which borders Rainier and North Thurston school districts in Thurston County, and Bethel and Eatonville school districts in Pierce County. School bond measures require a 60-percent supermajority of “yes” votes to pass.
About 800 ballots still need to be counted from the election which included maintenance and operations (M&O) levy measures from all eight public school districts in the county, according to the Auditor’s Office.
Yelm superintendent Andy Wolf said he was grateful voters approved the district’s 4-year, $45.9 million M&O levy measure which will help support paraeducator salaries, maintenance fees and other operational costs for the district.
“My concern is that if we had lost that (levy) we would have lost a number of programs,” Wolf said. “That’s still there. That’s a positive.”
He said officials will reflect on the election results of the bond and take input on options to address the school district’s overcrowding issues.
Since it’s the second time a request for school construction funding has failed in less than a year, the district will need to begin thinking of other ways to handle its overcrowded schools, Wolf said. Among the ideas they are considering: reconfiguring the district’s elementary school boundaries to help spread out the student population, keeping class sizes higher than the state’s target and turning art rooms and computer labs into regular classroom space.
Wolf said the district also will need to purchase more portable classrooms for its campuses.
“Yelm’s not going to stop growing,” he said. “We’re one of the fastest growing communities in the state.”
Meantime, outcomes from the other school-related measures in Tuesday’s Special Election held firm and were still passing, including Olympia School District’s $160.7 million bond that will add classrooms at multiple sites, renovate five schools and support other building projects. So far, the bond has received 10,654 “yes” votes, or 72.03 percent approval.
“We are overwhelmed by the support of our community,” Olympia School Board president Mark Campeau said in a statement posted on the district’s web site. “We realize that trust is very important and we will work hard to continue to build that trust. We cannot thank our voters enough for showing such a tremendous outpouring of support for our students and staff.
The election results are scheduled to be certified Feb. 19.