At first glance, East Valley Superintendent John Glenewinkel was encouraged by the ballot count announced for a $35.4 million capital facilities bond on Tuesday night.
Then Glenewinkel realized the margin reflected a supermajority voting against the proposal to renovate five schools, make technology grades and implement other improvements throughout the district.
“There was disbelief at first,” Glenewinkel said. “We thought they got the ballots mixed up.”
When the numbers were added up for the April 26 election, 61.35 percent of East Valley voters voiced their opposition to the funding initiative that would have included a $32.5 million state matching grant. A total of 38.65 percent marked their ballots for the bond.
According to Mike McLaughlin with the Spokane County Elections Office, only 43.49 percent of registered voters in the district – or a total of 6,263 out of 13,775 – cast ballots for Tuesday’s vote. McLaughlin said Wednesday morning that there were still around 350 votes left to count. The election will be certified on May 11.
In the other vote on Tuesday involving a local school district, residents in the Orchard Prairie School District approved a replacement maintenance and operations levy by a margin of 61.51 percent.
Low turnout has been typical for East Valley capital facilities elections in the district going back to March 2008 when 40 percent of registered voters weighed in on a $33 million bond that emerged with a 55.4-percent approval rating, still short of the required 60-percent supermajority. A follow-up ballot fared slightly better that May, garnering 56.6 percent with 43 percent of the electorate casting votes.
The third attempt at a capital funding request fell 8 percentage points short in February 2009. Still fewer than half – 44.5 percent – of voters turned out for an election that also included the passage of a maintenance and operations levy.
The latest bond would have raised taxes by 86 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value, resulting in a new rate of $4.39 per $1,000.
Glenewinkel said he has been asked by EVSD board Chairman Mitch Jensen to move forward with a capital facilities strategy that would include restructuring East Valley schools from a current system that houses kindergarten-through-fifth grade students at elementary schools and sixth through eighth graders at middle schools to a K-8 program that would involve a consolidation of buildings
Under the plan approved by the board in January, Mountain View Middle School would be closed while East Valley Middle School would be transitioned into an administrative center with middle school students being relocated to grade schools. Shutting down Mountain View – a campus with a capacity of 700 students that currently holds around 330 – would save the district approximately $1.5 million a year.
On Wednesday, Glenewinkel said a revised rendition of the plan would likely include keeping fifth graders at Otis Orchards and East Farms elementary schools while closing Mountain View and Skyview Elementary (currently housed in the K-8 Continuous Curriculum School just east of East Valley High School) and following through with the rest of the revisioning approach as first presented.
“We lost an election, but we have to deal with it,” Glenewinkel said. “We’re not going to put our heads down. We have to move forward.”
In a discussion held after this week’s News Herald went to press, the EVSD board of directors held a special meeting on Thursday morning to reflect on the election results and where the district goes from here. Glenewinkel said there would likely be further conversation at the next scheduled board meeting on May 10.
“It’s not going to help to be bitter about this election,” Glenewinkel said. “We’ve all got to work together for the good of this school district.”