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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Great Northern School District seeks $840,000 levy

The Great Northern School District his home to about 40 students from kindergarten to the 6th grade.   (DAN PELLE/The Spokesman-Review)

Great Northern School District is seeking voters’ approval on property tax collections to pay for staff and school equipment for the 40 students in the district.

North of Airway Heights, the district has one school, a 110-year-old brick building serving three classes of students kindergarten through sixth grade.

The district is looking to renew its levy that makes up around 22% of the total operating budget. Approval would renew the levy at an estimated rate of $1.03 per $1000 in assessed property value; the district would collect a total of $840,000 over three years beginning 2025.

The levy pays for additional staffing, supplies and equipment in classrooms and field trip costs.

Per Washington’s funding formula, the state pays salaries for two full-time teachers and part-time physical education, art and music specialists who add up to about a half-time employee. The levy pays for the rest, including a third classroom teacher.

Without the levy, the school would employ two classroom teachers paid for by the state, leaving one teacher responsible for kindergarten through third grade and another for fourth through sixth grade.

The third teacher allows classrooms to be split by kindergarten and first grade, second to third and fourth through sixth.

“Having a single teacher trying to teach kindergarteners, first -graders, second -graders and third -graders is a very difficult challenge,” Superintendent Kelly Shea said.

“In a nutshell, I believe it’s better instructionally and it’s better for our children’s learning to not have such a wide spectrum in one classroom.”

With only an elementary school, the district doesn’t offer secondary-level extracurriculars like in larger districts. Rather, levy funding is directed to supplies and equipment for classrooms and specialists, like sports equipment or different sized xylophones.

Students are bused to different facilities for their specialists: the West Central Community Center for access to their gym and a Medical Lake school auditorium for their annual winter concert.

“In order for our kids to have the similar kinds of experiences that kids from other schools that have gymnasiums and auditoriums,” Shea said, “our levy dollars pay for those things.”