I am a civil engineer, having lived, worked and raised my family on Lopez Island for the past 20 years. My oldest, born here, has graduated from Lopez High School, and I have two daughters still attending. I have been with the school and with the Lopez School District through both thick and thin over the past two decades, and am well aware of the present state of the school buildings and campus.
The Lopez School facilities have been pieced-together on shoe-string budgets for at least the past 20 years. Frankly, the buildings are old and inefficient, systems are failing and the infrastructure is a mess. We have already borrowed on the future; the school is falling apart because of an extended lack of investment.
I had the opportunity to observe and participate in the preliminary visioning and cost estimating that went into the bond proposal. The approach was bottom-up and comprehensive, including days of meetings and weeks of cost development. The board proposes an option which utilized the bones of the existing campus, but changes the school in fundamental ways, true to the collected vision, forever.
In my experience, the typical district approach would have been to balk at the costs, trimming, cutting, and hedging, until what remained addressed immediate health and safety issues and things completely broken. This approach has not worked well for the district in the past, and sometimes the things promised voters could not be delivered.
The school board has been brave, sticking to the vision and refraining from gutting the estimates before details are known or considered. They have resolved to squeeze costs during the design phase and return savings to the taxpayers.
If the bond proposal fails, we will get another, trimmed-down version next cycle, having lost some value in grants and lower interest rates. The tragedy will be that after completing minimal improvements at substantial cost, the facility will still be disjointed, aging and broken. We will find ourselves facing the same fundamental problems, exactly where we started.
Now is the time.
Dan Drahn P.E.