January 18, 2024 - In the fall I wrote a letter to the community sharing some of the steps we take to ensure that your children receive the best education. In addition, I informed everyone that the board of directors had approved a resolution to renew the capital projects and technology levy that will be on the February 13, 2024 ballot. Today, my goal is to share with you one new and exciting venture we have initiated and to discuss the specifics of the upcoming levy election.
As a former high school educator for nearly 17 years, I love teenagers and am proud that I made my career working with them. Over the last two years as Superintendent, however, I have come to understand just how important early education is. I honor those preschools in this community that have set our children up for success when they enter kindergarten. Unfortunately, there just are not enough of these programs to serve all of the young learners on this island. So, I am proud to report that we will be opening a Transition to Kindergarten program for 4- year-olds in the fall of 2024. Information about what this will look like and who can be admitted will be released at the beginning of February. At that time, an interest survey will be available for families to complete as a part of the process. We won’t be able to serve every four-year-old; therefore, we will work in collaboration with the private programs. This is a great start to serving our youngest learners while supporting our community.
Another exciting new way that we are reaching out to our early learners is with the opening of a developmental pre-kindergarten classroom just last week. This program prioritizes placement for students ages 3-5 with unique needs. There are limits to how many students we can enroll, and currently this program is full. We are hopeful that we will be able to continue to serve even more pre-kindergarten learners in the future.
In the middle of opening these amazing preschool programs, the district is also sharing information with the community about the upcoming levy renewal election. Basic education funding from the State of Washington does not provide the necessary funds for facility improvements or technology which is why we have a capital projects and technology levy. The current capital projects and technology levy was approved for four years and is set to expire at the end of this year. At the February 13, 2024 election, voters will be given the option of renewing this levy for another four years. A fact sheet from the district will be mailed out to all households by January 24th explaining what capital and technology needs will be addressed with this levy. Please look for that in your mailbox. The steering committee and the school board of directors spent about a year shaping this levy request, specifically choosing projects based on safety, preventative maintenance, and keeping our technology current.
The projects included in this renewal levy are items such as the exterior envelope on the secondary campus. If you drive by the high school on Guard or Blair Street, you will see that the siding is failing. We must act now to prevent costlier and more extensive repairs in the future. Other concerns such as the 30-year-old carpet in the elementary school, the failing bleachers on the athletic field, failing boilers, and other items in need of maintenance are also on the plan over the next four years. A full list of projects can be found on the school district website, www.sjisd.wednet.edu.
In 2020, this community passed the same capital and technology levy. We faithfully used the money to complete the projects we promised. This was difficult in the face of extreme inflation. The projects that were completed are currently improving our schools and student learning and we thank you.
I realize the importance of what we are asking for, but I am also cognizant of what this will mean to everyone’s taxes. The school board was very thoughtful in what to ask of the voters. It was important to recognize the extreme cost of goods and services due to inflation and take to the community only those items that meet the objectives of the district. Although we will collect more over the next 4 years than what we did between 2020-2024, we are asking for a lower rate from each person than the 2020 election.
For example, in 2020, the voters approved this levy at $0.39 per $1,000 of assessed property value. In real terms, that meant that someone who owned a home assessed at $800,000 would pay $313 annually. The 2024 levy is $0.34 per $1,000. At this rate, someone who owned a home assessed at $800,00 would pay $268 per year.
There is no doubt that the levy will have a huge impact on our schools. It is my belief that good schools are central to a thriving community. We have an amazing school system and the levy renewal requested by the district will allow us to continue to take proper care of our buildings and facilities so that we continue to have safe, modern, and well-maintained schools long into the future. The levy renewal also continues the technological services needed so that our students and teachers can keep current with the rapidly changing technology essential to our world. As I have stated before, we really are a great community, a great school district.
So, look for the information that will be mailed out soon concerning this renewal levy or visit www.sjisd.wednet.edu and open the capital and technology levy link to learn more, and be sure to vote in the February 13, 2024 election. If you have any specific questions, please feel free to reach out to me at the district office.
San Juan Island School District