Pasco community members can help shape a school bond measure for the November election.
School board members reached a consensus at a special meeting Tuesday to ask a group of parents, teachers and other interested citizens to contribute suggestions for what the proposal should contain.
The district’s $69.5 million bond measure fell short of the 60 percent approval it needed to pass in the Feb. 14 election. The measure mustered 5,402 votes, or 57 percent, in support.
The district needs to find space to house its increasing student population, which has grown by an average of 600 students per year since 2000.
Opinion among the 80 people at Tuesday night’s meeting was split whether overcrowding is worse at the elementary schools or the middle schools.
Pasco resident Nathan Grimm looked at Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction figures and found that the elementary schools are at 158 percent of their capacity, middle schools at 113 percent and high schools at 139 percent.
While Grimm voted for the Feb. 14 measure, he said he was undecided about whether he would do the same if the measure contained a fourth middle school instead of two elementary schools.
Board President Scott Lehrman said during the election that most of the state matching funds the district receives are because of the number of students at the elementary schools.
The district could spend bond money on a new middle school, but it’s not where the highest need is, Lehrman said.
A group of parents, teachers and students, including board member Aaron Richardson, said the numbers don’t paint the entire picture.
I would really like to use the positive momentum in the healthy dialogue that we had to really refresh and make our approach relevant and renewed.
Superintendent Michelle Whitney
They pointed to McLoughlin Middle School and its 34 portable classrooms and 1,247 students. The school’s students don’t get the chance to participate in extracurricular activities.
The consensus of the people at the meeting was that the district should present another bond proposal to voters.
No clear list of projects came from the discussion.
Following about 2 1/2 hours of public comments, Superintendent Michelle Whitney took the podium to present a plan to move forward.
“I would really like to use the positive momentum in the healthy dialogue that we had to really refresh and make our approach relevant and renewed,” she said.
MGT of America, a consulting group, is finishing the first phase of a long-term plan for the district’s buildings and other facilities.
Whitney is tapping the company to assist with planning for the next bond measure. It is expected to organize two ways for the community members to offer input.
The first is through forums across the district, to allow residents to offer their opinions.
The second is a team of citizens, dubbed the Community Builders, to parse the information provided by the community and help develop a plan.
Whitney suggested waiting for November to go to voters again because it gives MGT, the board, the district and the community enough time to figure out what should be in the next bond.
“This is a nice balance between those who are requesting that we move quickly and those who are requesting that we be thoughtful and reflective,” she said.
MGT is likely to lay out a timeline during the board retreat on March 2.
People interested in participating in the group can contact Randy Nunamaker, the district’s executive director of operations, at email@example.com.