The Bethel School Board voted unanimously Tuesday night to bring its $443 million school construction bond back to the ballot in February.
The bond, which failed in the November election, would bring much-needed relief to burgeoning enrollment by paying for a brand new high school, two new elementary schools and remodels and expansions of various other schools throughout the district, school officials say.
Bethel hasn’t passed a bond since 2006 and is facing drastic changes, including year-round school if something doesn’t change.
“We need the relief, we really do,” Bethel Superintendent Tom Seigel said.
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Cost will remain the same at $443 million, with minor changes to language that clearly identifies the new location for Bethel High School and an added $35 million project to construct a new wing at Graham-Kapowsin High School. Reducing the cost of the Bethel High School project, combined with extra funds from the state and the School Construction Assistance Program in 2019 would cover the cost of the added project.
District officials are wary but optimistic that the measure will pass come February.
“I think there’s a reasonable chance it’ll pass, and the reason is this last time the information about how dire the situation is finally got through to much of the public,” Seigel said.
In November, the bond failed to reach the required 60 percent supermajority by 307 votes, coming in at 59.22 percent approval.
It was a disappointing loss for board members.
“We spent a lot of time focusing on the disappointment of the 59.22 percent … but it would behoove us to take a moment to be grateful (for those who voted),” board vice president Brenda Rogers said at the meeting Tuesday night.
Initial election results in November showed the bond failing at 54 percent, but that jumped to 59 percent by the end of the month — something board president John Manning said is a good sign for the February bond.
“The people want it,” he said.
At the same time, Manning said he wanted to be clear there won’t be “a miracle change” if the bond passes. It could take three years to open a new school.
In the meantime, the district will continue to consider solutions to the crowding issue, including transitioning to year-round school or moving fifth-grade students to middle schools.
The district has assembled a task force to discuss the options. The next meeting is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Thursday at the Pierce County Skills Center in Frederickson. The public is welcome.
“We need to do something, and building new buildings is the easiest path to go down,” Seigel said.