Most school bond issues are not so basic. The Eastmont School District is not asking for new schools on new sites. It wants no new edifice glowing on the hill. It wants to fix things, stop leaks, upgrade ancient wiring. It wants buildings big enough to accommodate its students, because enrollment has grown by half since the buildings went up, and they don’t fit.
In other words, it would do what any building owner does if they have sense — maintain what they have, modify it if necessary to meet current needs, and think about the future.
It seems eminently sensible. The district seeks permission to sell $30.8 million in bonds, which will add about 56 cents per $1,000 in assessed value to property tax bills. With this the district will remodel and modernize three schools — Eastmont High, Sterling Intermediate and Grant Elementary. These are difficult economic times, and a difficult time to ask property owners to bear added debt. But, there may be no better time to bring public buildings up to date. Interest rates are rock bottom, construction costs are the lowest in many years, and state money is available. The state schools trust will provide $1.44 for every dollar raised locally. This is not a stimulus giveaway, but money earned by public lands set aside for the purpose of financing and building of schools.
What do these buildings need? Grant Elementary opened with 240 students in the early days of the Eisenhower administration. It now houses 410 students. The bond will replace the roof, improve the parking lot to accommodate modern vehicles, add insulation and replace the heating and cooling system. Sterling Intermediate opened during the Kennedy administration and houses 200 students more than its intended capacity. It will get upgraded wiring, new heating and cooling, and added space for classrooms and commons.
Eastmont High School was a modern marvel when it opened 32 years ago. East Wenatchee has changed a bit since. The building may be a marvel still, but it is elbow-to-elbow overcrowded with overloaded pre-digital wiring. Holding class in the hallways is not conducive to learning. Eastmont High needs more classrooms, a larger commons, more gym space and a roof that doesn’t leak.
We see nothing extravagant on these lists. We see mostly things any homeowner might attend to — wiring, plumbing, heating and cooling, fixtures and cabinets, an impervious roof, space enough to be comfortable and safe. You want something adequate, that will hold up long enough so you don’t have to keep spending on temporary fixes. You want to get it done now, because it will cost you more tomorrow.
The Eastmont District has done a good job in presenting a practical package of improvements. It is up to voters to approve the loan necessary to make it happen. This is a bond issue, and 60 percent voter approval is required. In this case every vote is crucial, but the investment will be wise.
This is the opinion of The Wenatchee World and its Editorial Board: Editor and Publisher Rufus Woods, Managing Editor Cal FitzSimmons, Chief Financial Officer Janine Bakken and Editorial Page Editor Tracy Warner.