The Peninsula School Board voted unanimously Wednesday to put a $50 million capital levy on the November ballot to build an elementary school in north Gig Harbor and completely rebuild Artondale Elementary School on the south side of the peninsula.
The two school projects are estimated at $22.5 million each. The additional $5 million would be used for other improvements around the district.
The estimated tax increase on property owners would be $1.40 per $1,000 assessed value.
School board member Harlan Gallinger said the north Gig Harbor area needs an elementary school. It would be built on land the district owns near the YMCA.
“This explosive growth in Gig Harbor North has really taken off; it’s growing like crazy,” Gallinger said.
The pressure is largely felt at Purdy Elementary School, which is designed for about 500 students but saw an enrollment of 747 in the 2012-13 school year.
The district has attempted to counter the growth by moving out some highly capable students and denying all out-of-district transfers, but enrollment is still substantially higher than capacity.
Parents have complained about the overcrowding.
“If we look at all of the other schools, some of the different numbers in other schools are like 350 (students); we’re way up here at 700,” said Kelly Fisk, a Purdy parent. “It is a safety concern, and there are also anxiety concerns. Parents aren’t encouraged to attend any of the assemblies. Parents are skipping them because it’s just too much.”
Artondale doesn’t have overcrowding concerns, but the school is suffering from deterioration and infrastructure issues. The school board has identified Artondale as the district campus with the most pressing need for replacement.
The district is floating the capital levy after Peninsula voters rejected a $78 million bond measure in 2011.
Bonds require a supermajority vote of 60 percent to pass, while levies require a simple majority. The measure in February 2011 won more than 57 percent of the vote.
Some community members are concerned about the board switching approaches.
“I fear that you’re running it as a levy to get past the supermajority requirement of a bond,” said resident Jerry Gibbs. “Instead of taking on the hard issues that would bring in that additional 5 percent, you decided to run this as a levy because it only requires 50 percent.”