School tax measures in eight of nine Pierce County school districts appeared to be passing, based on early election returns Tuesday night.
The sole exception was in the Bethel School District, where early vote counts showed a $236.7 million bond request falling short of the 60-percent supermajority needed for bond approval.
Bethel Superintendent Tom Seigel said he was thankful for those who worked hard to get out information on the bond.
“There are a lot of good things in the bond package that still need to be done,” he said Tuesday night. “Buildings continue to age. We are going to have more kids showing up. Our schools will be packed.”
Seigel had just come from a meeting, where the School Board voted to purchase six portable classrooms, at a cost of $200,000 each, to deal with the district’s growing enrollment. Additional dollars will be spent on permitting and site preparation for each of the makeshift classrooms, he said.
He said the 60-percent approval needed for bonds is a “high hurdle,” but he said the district’s needs remain.
It will be up to the Bethel School Board to decide whether to run another bond election.
Officials were in a more cheerful mood in the Sumner School District, where early returns indicated that a $145.6 million bond appeared to have cleared the 60-percent hurdle.
Like Bethel, Sumner is feeling the effects of suburban housing developments that are drawing new families with children to the district.
There are a lot of good things in the bond package that still need to be done.
Bethel Superintendent Tom Seigel
District spokeswoman Sarah Gillispie said Tuesday night that Sumner school leaders were pleased with the results, and thankful for community support.
She noted that Sumner is one of the fastest-growing school districts in the state.
The first two projects to be built with the bond money are a new elementary school in the southeastern part of the district and an early learning center for preschool and kindergarten students near Sumner Middle School.
Both of those buildings are scheduled to open in the fall of 2018, Gillispie said.
Plans also call for bond money to replace 28-year-old Emerald Hills Elementary School, the district’s oldest elementary building, and expand Mountain View Middle School, its smallest middle school, to accommodate growth.
Bond dollars will also add space at Bonney Lake High School, including a performing arts center.
The Bethel bond would have paid for replacement or renovation at six schools: Evergreen and Naches Trail elementary schools, Cedarcrest Middle School and Bethel, Challenger and Graham-Kapowsin high schools.
The district planned to build a new elementary school on property that is part of the Cedarcrest campus and buy land to support future enrollment growth.
The district also hoped to construct a $29 million aquatic center for use by Bethel students and by the wider community.
Supporters said the aquatic center would offer a needed recreation center for the area. There are no public swimming pools within the Spanaway-based Bethel School District. But opponents said the pool was not necessary.
Elsewhere in Pierce County, early returns indicated approval of bond measures in the Carbonado and White River districts.
In the Clover Park School District in Lakewood, a four-year levy to pay for day-to-day operations also appeared to be passing Tuesday night. Levies need only a simple majority to pass.