Voters back most school funding requests

South Sound’s three largest public school districts will experience some major upgrades during the next few years, thanks to voters who overwhelmingly approved ballot measures during Tuesday’s special election.

“It’s phenomenal,” said Raj Manhas, superintendent of North Thurston Public Schools. The district’s 20-year, $175 million construction bond measure will upgrade or modernize five schools, build a new middle school and make other improvements.

“It’s a great tribute to our community,” Manhas said. “The community has sent a strong message to the students, that ‘We support you.’”

Olympia School District’s four-year, $13.2 million technology and school safety levy garnered the most support on the ballot, with more than 70 percent of voter approval, according to early returns.

The levy will fund safety projects and technology upgrades across the district, from assistive devices for special education students and new computers, to cameras on school buses and panic buttons throughout the district for emergencies. It will pay for more training and support to encourage teachers to use technology in their lessons, too.

“We don’t take our community for granted,” Olympia Superintendent Dick Cvitanich said. “And we are grateful for the confidence and the trust they have placed in us by supporting our levy.”

North Thurston and Tumwater School District officials held off running construction measures earlier due to the recession.

And now that Tumwater voters have approved a 20-year, $136 million bond measure to replace two elementary schools, expand its middle schools and make other improvements, work can begin immediately, spokeswoman Kim Howard said. Architects are already being screened, she said.

“Passing this bond means that we move forward with the projects that are needed to provide the safe, secure and modern facilities needed to meet the needs of today’s students and classrooms,” Tumwater Superintendent Mike Kirby added.

Voters in the Griffin School District continued their tradition of passing school measures. The district now has an 11-0 record for ballot measures since February 2000.

Meantime, a bond measure in the Tenino School District wasn’t meeting the required 60 percent required “yes” votes for approval, according to early returns. At 56 percent, its outcome probably won’t change even as more ballots are counted, according to Thurston County Auditor Mary Hall.

As of Tuesday morning, the county had a 29 percent voter turnout, she said. The next ballot count will be released Wednesday. The election is set to be certified Feb. 25.

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