VANCOUVER, Wash. -- Leaders with Evergreen Public Schools in Vancouver are hopeful that voters will approve a $695 million dollar bond that will help pay for several schools to be replaced. Among the issues facing some of the aging schools: lead contamination and old roofs.
Of the roughly half-dozen Evergreen schools set to be replaced, Image Elementary has more than one safety concern tied to the building. For over a year, the district has dealt with unsafe lead levels in the school's water supply.
“There's caution tape across the water fountains. And it's been there for quite some time,” said Grace Quartson, an Image parent.
To alleviate the lead issue, the district has provided bottled drinking water to students. District leaders say they replaced fixtures at the school, but the problem persisted.
The roof at Image Elementary, along with some other Evergreen schools, also poses a potential problem. State leaders had previously issued a warning to Evergreen stating that certain facility roofs, all built by the same company in the 1970s, were outdated and potentially prone to collapses due to heavy snow loads. The roof's age and strength had prevented the district from updating Image's HVAC system too.
“Image just kind of had the double hit of having both the lead pipes and the roof trusses,” said Evergreen superintendent John Steach. “We have facility needs that need to be met. And one way or the other, we're going to have to address them.”
Steach emphasized the need for the new bond, noting that the district last passed a bond measure in 2002. A 2008 bond vote failed, likely due to the timing of the recession, said Steach.
“So really, the time is now,” he said, noting that taxpayers would notice a slight decrease by 2019 if the bond were to pass.
“If this were to not pass, my biggest fear is: can we afford to keep doing the preservation work and the maintenance work that we have been for the last 10 years?” Steach said.
Some parents like Quartson say they're also hopeful that the bond will gain enough support.
“I feel like the district has done a good job with communicating with parents, but the concerns have been ongoing and they haven't been addressed in a quick manner,” she said. “If you support our kids, I would hope that you would support the bond too.”
The bond, which is on the February ballot, needs 60 percent of the vote to pass. Steach told KGW that district voter surveys showed support for the bond.
The school district will host two open houses on Jan. 25 to explain the bond and answer questions. Both events will be held at the district's Administrative Service Center, at 13501 NE 28th St., from 2-3 p.m. and 5:30-6:30 p.m.