Bethel is growing at a historic pace – 717 students in the last two years alone – and our schools are already overcrowded trying to handle the population boom. The only way to truly solve the problem is to pass a bond to build new schools and renovate and expand our older schools.
Bethel needs a bond. In November 2018, a School Construction Bond failed just 307 votes shy of the required 60% supermajority. This was the fourth failed bond attempt since 2016. We are quickly running out of options for housing our growing population of students, and we are almost out of space to house portable classrooms.
Some more drastic options are already on the table. Currently our Long Range Facilities Task Force is exploring alternate options to eliminate overcrowding if a bond is not passed soon. One option is a move to a multi-track, year-round school calendar in the 2020/21 school year. Bethel was a year-round district from 1974-1981, also due to failed bonds and overcrowding.
Our Boundary Review Committee is also looking at school boundary changes to help spread out the overcrowding more evenly. Those changes will be communicated to parents in early 2019.
With that in mind, our School Board voted unanimously to put another bond before the voters this coming February.
The February bond is very similar to the bond voters saw in November. There are a few small changes based on community feedback, but the overall cost is the same. If approved, the bond would build three brand new schools, including a brand new Bethel High School. It would also renovate and expand six of our other schools, including a new wing on Graham-Kapowsin High School.
The bond will cost Bethel taxpayers $1.42 per thousand dollars of assessed value. For the average single family home in Bethel ($297,021), that would mean $35 a month, or $1.17 a day. Because of the changes made last year in how the state funds public education, even with this increase, local school-related taxes in 2019 would still be lower than they were in 2018.
Election Day is February 12.