School officials and bond supporters in Kellogg still were giddy with delight Wednesday, the day after residents approved a $6.6 million school bond levy.
The bond issue, which will pay for a new elementary school and an addition to the high school, was passed with 73.5 percent of the vote.
“Today, everyone is flying sky-high,” said Dr. Jim Joy, co-chairman of the bond campaign committee. “These people stood up and said, ‘We are not going to be a Bonners Ferry. We’re not going to be a Post Falls. Our kids matter to us.”’
Joy was referring to failed school bond efforts in those communities. Most school districts in North Idaho have struggled in recent years to overcome the supermajority requirement for passing bond levies.
To pass a school bond issue, which generally is required for any large construction project, school districts must win at least 66-2/3 percent of the vote.
The deciding factors in Kellogg’s case were a lot of homework, information and community involvement, Joy said.
“We got all the community involved, the kids involved, the senior citizens involved, and people really believed in what we’re saying,” he said.
The victory is one not only for kids, Joy said, but it also will help attract business to the area now bouncing back from financial decline.
Superintendent Greg Godwin agreed that the committee did a good job of educating the public.
“They looked at the 1929 elementary school and saw some real safety and code issues,” Godwin said. “There was no question in their mind the need was there.”
Kellogg hasn’t always had such an easy time passing levies.
The district has had to hold supplemental levy elections nearly every year to maintain educational programs, but some years, the district has had to hold the election more than once to pass the levy. Supplemental levies need only a simple majority to pass.
The district will need to hold another supplemental levy election next spring because bond levies cannot be used for educational programs.
Joy’s citizens-based committee, the A+ Schools for the 21st Century Committee, started working on the bond campaign last winter. About 50 people worked on the committee, which spent months gathering information and educating the community about the need for new school facilities.
This month the committee held four separate public meetings to answer questions voters might have.
A smaller committee had worked earlier to determine what to put on the ballot. The school board decided on a menu-type ballot because the board had trouble discerning exactly what district patrons would support.
The district has $14 million in facility needs, but “we couldn’t pass a bond for $14 million,” Joy said.
The campaign committee was straightforward with voters in explaining that the bond, if passed, won’t solve all the district’s problems.
“They know we’ll have to come back to them,” Joy said. “We laid the groundwork, so it will be easier down the road.”
The choices on the ballot were narrowed to the $6.6 million option, which pays for a new elementary school next to Kellogg Middle School and will pay for renovation and an addition to Kellogg High School.
A $4.4 million option would have remodeled Pinehurst Elementary School so it could house all students from Kellogg and Pinehurst.
The third option, a $3.8 million bond, would have built an elementary school.
Kellogg needs a new elementary school because Sunnyside Elementary is outdated. The core of the school was built in 1929. Overall the school cannot meet the needs of handicapped students or accommodate the latest education technology.
The school also has a few safety issues. The fire escapes, for instance, don’t meet current standards.
Sunnyside Principal Steve Shepherd has struggled for eight years to make the old school fit the needs of today’s students.
Now he gets to concentrate on how the new school should be designed and equipped.
“There’s a real positive climate in the school today,” he said Wednesday. “Lots of smiling and laughing….
“I’d like to publicly thank the hundreds of people who worked to get the bond passed. We’re going to do everything we possibly can to make the community proud of us.”