Letter to the Lake Chelan School Board and Superintendent

First, and foremost, I want to thank the school board and staff for your work to improve education for all students. There have been many statements recently regarding the investment in the education of the current and future students in our schools. I agree that a quality education is truly a sound investment in the future lives of all students.

However, the recent $75.5M bond issue was a not a sound investment of local tax resources. Though there are continued facility challenges that need attention in all schools, I recommend that leadership focus on simple improvements over time to accomplish those goals. The following are my thoughts from one Chelan community member.

1. A new high school and third campus is not needed at this time. The student enrollment has been flat for the past 21 years. This simply means that that the Lake Chelan School District has had the same number of students in its schools and has been operating extremely well for decades. This $59M expenditure is not justified.

2. It has been stated that we need new school buildings for the teaching of Century 21st skills. Yes, we do need the current technology of today for staff to use in their teaching and work with students. That technology does not require new buildings. These 21st Century skills are taught by the quality teaching and support staff. Therefore, quality instructional skills are what staff need to continue providing excellence in education. Lastly, the community remains aware of the special tax levy that was approved by the voters in 2016 for technological improvements.

3. Replace the HVAC units at the buildings when there is a need. Simply, if a unit needs repaired, fix it. If it needs replaced, replace it. Each of us do that in our personal and business lives. We do not install entire new systems when a simple repair would solve the problem.

4. In the “flattop” area buildings, I suggest making the improvements that have been identified. There are improvements and “fixes” that can be made without total remodels. Again, repair and fix as needed.

5. Much has been stated that there are unsafe conditions regarding having the “pre-school in the basement”. Though those students have been educated in these same two classrooms for 20+ years, I do recognize the perceptions some may have. Since you have decided to remodel new district office space and will be moving the special programs administrative staff to the new site across the street, I suggest moving the pre-school students upstairs in that vacated space. Then the basement area space can be used for another program within the district.

6. The Community Gym has been improved with the past bond issue in 2008; this is an exceptional quality teaching space for MOE students, and activities district wide. Another gym at MOE is not needed.

7. Safety concerns; the 2013 capital improvement tax levy provided for several safety improvements in all buildings. The superintendent has stated that the DOT will provide (for free) additional flashing lights for the safety of our students. My recommendation is to ask them to install these lights in any area of need.

8. Crowded concerns; Our schools are like any other school in the surrounding areas. When you have class changes, and all students are released at the same time, the hallways are crowded. When it is lunch time and all students are released at the same time, the lunch area is crowded. When school dismisses at the same time, it is crowded in the parking and exit areas. When a well-attended activity ends, it is crowded when the event culminates. I suggest that the administration continue to review options to mitigate those “crowded” concerns.

9. There are some improvements, repairs, and “fixes” that can be made at the football field. A $2.5M parking lot, and a $2.25M synthetic turf are not the improvements that are necessary. I suggest that only small improvements and repairs should be made.

Overall, I would suggest the administration and school board review how to use limited local tax resources to make the necessary improvements; not the “wants” that some have. Millions of local tax dollars have been spent recently to upgrade and improve our facilities. Please continue that approach.

Remain debt free, prioritize existing revenue for the areas in need, and solve any facility problem like you would do in your personal and business life. Spend the public resources wisely.
Thank you
Jim Busey
Chelan

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