Knappa school bond

Children and teachers in the Knappa School District preschool program play with trains at the beginning of the school day on Wednesday at Crossroads Community Church.

Voters in Knappa will weigh a bond measure on the November ballot that would fund a number of projects and improvements at the school district.

The $14 million bond would levy an average tax rate of $2.20 per $1,000 of assessed value and would mature in 25 years. If the bond is approved, the Knappa School District would receive a $4 million grant from the state to boost the budget for projects to $18 million.

Knappa school bond

Old portable buildings in Knappa would be replaced if a school bond passes.

The bond money would fund the construction of a new facility with several classrooms, a science lab and a learning hub at the middle school. The portable classrooms at the middle school are over 40 years old, Knappa Superintendent Bill Fritz said, and not adequate for student learning.

A community gym and a space for a preschool would also be constructed.

“The district sorely needs a new gym,” Fritz said. “We, right now, are double and triple-shifting our athletic events. We don’t have adequate space for indoor recess for the elementary school, and the elementary school gym isn’t really adequate for middle school sports.”

The bond money would also tackle maintenance and infrastructure needs at schools. Roofs, exterior surfaces, plumbing and electrical, heating and ventilation systems would see renovations.

Safety and security concerns would also be addressed, including the addition of new fire sprinklers, locking mechanisms and communication devices.

As the voting nears, Fritz remains positive about the bond’s potential.

“You never want to count your chickens before they’re hatched, but I’d say we are cautiously optimistic,” he said. “You don’t want to assume it’s going to pass, but I think there seems to be strong community sentiment in support of the schools and we’re optimistic about the possibility of passing it.”

The school district, with the help of an advisory committee, polled families in Knappa before pursuing the bond measure. Although polling showed more favorability for a $12 million bond over the $14 million option, the district moved forward with the more expensive proposal.

Knappa school bond

Stains from water damage are visible on the walls of a covered play area at Hilda Lahti Elementary School.

One major selling point, Fritz said, is that the proposed tax rate for the $14 million bond is three cents less per thousand than the average for the school district’s previous bond.

Brian Montgomery, the chairman of Yes Knappa, a community group formed to advocate for the bond, is encouraged by the overall feedback and considers the improvement projects urgent.

“It addresses critical maintenance and infrastructure needs, and it’s going to improve the educational experience for the kids for years to come,” Montgomery said. “Also, I think that a strong public school helps build a strong community. So even if you don’t have kids in the district, if you live in the community, I think it’s in everyone’s interest to keep it viable.

“And a public school is really, especially in a small town, more than just a school, it serves as almost a community center at times.”

Over the past several years, voters have approved bond measures for schools in Astoria, Warrenton and Seaside.

In Seaside, a $99.7 million bond approved in 2016 helped move schools out of the tsunami inundation zone. A $70 million bond in Astoria and a $38.5 million bond in Warrenton approved in 2018 financed several school improvement projects.

“This is just my personal viewpoint, but we do need to keep up a little bit, because a lot of what we’re doing is maintaining infrastructure … If we don’t do that type of stuff, then eventually it gets to a point where you become a pretty poor option out of all the schools in the area, and I would never want to see that happen,” Montgomery said.

While Fritz said he doesn’t know if the recent approvals of other school bond measures will have any influence on how Knappa will vote, he said, “I think that when people look down the street and see modern facilities, they are like, ‘Well, we should have modern facilities as well.’”