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Key Peninsula school district hoping to woo voters a second time

Staff create workspace in school hallway.(Photo: Jennifer Butler)

GIG HARBOR, Wash. – It’s Déjà vu on the Key Peninsula, where one local school district is hoping to pass a bond to help address aging schools and overcrowding.

A more expensive bond in the Peninsula School District failed last April. Now, ‘Proposition One’ hopes to raise nearly $200 million to build two brand new schools, rebuild two more and fund upgrades at others.

The principal at Purdy Elementary School says many of her students are forced to learn inside portable classrooms which now cover play spaces.

“Last month alone we enrolled twenty new students,” said Kristi Rivera. “That’s a new classroom and we don’t have enough room.”

The district interim superintendent Art Jarvis says enrollment across the elementary schools are causing an overcrowding problem.

“We suspend programs, we put teachers on wheels, we find some corner we can put a classroom in,” he said.

Jarvis says his staff have been creative – working out of closet spaces, creating rooms out of hallways – but they can’t fit more portables outside.

District officials say some schools have heating, electrical or water problems.

“Portables have become a permanent solution because we haven’t had the capital funding that we need,” says district parent Jennifer Butler.

Butler is also campaigning for Stand up for Peninsula Schools. She believes the bond will be worth every penny.

“Dollar for dollar, I think there’s no greater investment we can make than in our schools,” she said.

“We can go in and remodel a school for $250 a square foot instead of $600 a square foot to build a new one,” said Randy Boss, who represents Responsible Taxation of Citizens, which calls for the rejection of the proposition.

“We do not have a crisis of overcrowding,” said Boss.

Boss also disagrees with how the district has spent money in the past. However, repeated audits from the state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction found no evidence of mismanagement at the district.

Last April, voters narrowly rejected a bond measure – it only got fifty-nine of the sixty percentage approval required to pass. If voters approve the bond this time the district says it has a plan to immediately expand the number of elementary school classrooms with the planned purchase the Cheney Family Branch building from the Boys & Girls Clubs of South Puget Sound.

“We need those 9 classrooms and it gives to us immediately in fall 2019,” Jarvis, “But that purchase is dependent on the bond issue.”

Proposition One is part of the 2019 Pierce County Special Election. The deadline for new voters is Monday and deadline for ballots is Tuesday, February 12.

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