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Rural school districts look for money in February election

Several rural school districts in Spokane County are asking voters for money in February’s special election.

Ballots were mailed last week. To be counted, they must be turned in or postmarked by Feb. 9.

Here’s a look at three districts with bonds or levies on the ballot. For more information on the special elections, visit www.spokesman.com/elections.

Reardan-Edwall

Since the late 1990s the Reardan-Edwall School District has tried, unsuccessfully, to pass a bond that would allow the district to renovate aging infrastructure. On Feb. 9, district officials will try again to the tune of $10.9 million.

“We are asking for the same thing that we have been asking for the last two times, and that is rebuilding our oldest facility, which is Reardan Elementary and Smith Gym,” Superintendent Marcus Morgan said.

In 2014, when the bond ran twice, it received around 55 percent approval, missing the 60 percent needed to pass.

Reardan Elementary was built in 1954 and remodeled in 1977. The gym was built in the 1960s. Most classrooms only have two electrical outlets, Morgan said.

“The real problem is infrastructure. We have had tons of repairs on our heating system,” Morgan said. “Our electrical panels are peaked. So as we’ve added technology to those classrooms we literally have extension cords running everywhere.”

In addition to the electrical system, the heating and cooling systems are overburdened. Morgan said during Christmas break a heating system broke and flooded the library. Those kinds of emergency repairs cost the district roughly $100,000 a year.

The main obstacle for the district has been its sheer geographic size. Many voters have little or no connection to the school and see no reason to support it with tax money, he said.

“It’s been very hard to connect them to the bigger goal of, ‘Hey, we are here to support kids and educate the next generation,’ ” he said. “Our goal this time around is try to get the folks that don’t vote to look at the issues.”

Liberty

The Liberty School District in south Spokane County is taking another stab at passing a bond, which garnered 57 percent support in November – less than the 60 percent necessary to pass.

Superintendent Kyle Rydell said the board and the bond committee are now asking for a $12.2 million bond, which is about $1 million less than what they previously wanted. They reduced the overall bond amount by deciding not to build a new football stadium.

“Just saving a million dollars too is just a smart idea,” Rydell said. “I feel very positive.”

The new bond, if approved, would fund renovations to the 1960s-era high school building, build a new gymnasium, renovate bathrooms, locker rooms and install wireless Internet. The bond would also support security updates in the elementary and junior high schools. Funds would also make it possible for buses to pick up and drop off students at both the elementary and middle school and the high school without leaving school property. Currently, buses have to drive onto public roads when going between the high school and elementary school, even though the two share property.

“The sentiment is, ‘Hey you listened to us and we appreciate that,’ ” Rydell said of the community.

The district is still eligible for $1.8 million matching state funds.

Great Northern

Great Northern Superintendent Glenn ‘Kay’ Frizzell is confident voters will approve the district’s $200,000 maintenance and operation levy request. Frizzell said the district has one of the highest levy approval rates in Washington, and voters have never rejected a levy.

The district asks for levy money every other year, Frizzell said.

“It’s unusual for us to be below 80 percent,” he said.

The levy money funds “the extra costs the state does not cover,” Frizzell said. Because the district is only K-6, they send students to Cheney or Medical Lake middle schools and high schools. Sending students there costs money, Frizzell said. Additionally, levy money would fund special education and other day-to-day operating costs.


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