Olympia and Yelm voters are being asked to support bond measures that would pay for new classrooms and upgrades to older facilities in the Feb. 9 election. We recommend support for both proposals, which need a 60 percent yes vote to be enacted.
Olympia School District enrollment is expected to grow by 1,400 students over the next decade, and state legislative demands to reduce class size are adding other pressures, according to Olympia Superintendent Dick Cvitanich.
The construction bond would collect $160.7 million over 20 years, costing taxpayers about 50 cents more per $1,000 of assessed property value above what they paid in 2015.
The district wants to put $71.5 million of it into renovations at McLane, Roosevelt and Centennial elementary schools, and spend another $29.4 million to add classrooms at the McLane, Roosevelt, Centennial, Pioneer and Hansen schools. Each elementary also would receive a two-story mini-building meant to reduce use of portables. Additionally, $24.3 million would add a two-story building with 22 classrooms, science labs and a commons to replace portables at Olympia High School.
(Disclosure: The district’s proposed purchase of The Olympian’s office building on Bethel Street is not contingent on the bond, but bond funds would be needed to upgrade the structure.)
The Yelm proposal is as important. It would collect $59.5 million over 21 years, adding about $1 per $1,000 of assessed value to property tax bills. The district expects to add about 900 students by 2020.
The district would rebuild Southworth Elementary on its existing site, which has 14 of the district’s 80 portable classrooms. Superintendent Andy Wolf said the district would also replace Yelm Middle School and make upgrades to Prairie Elementary. A ninth-grade campus in a separate building next to Yelm High School also is proposed.
Neither proposal appears excessive. Neither drew a statement of opposition in the Thurston County voter pamphlet. Both deserve support.