Puyallup schools try to regroup after bond measure failure

PUYALLUP, Wash. -- When Puyallup sounded the alarm to save their schools, voters failed to answer the call. Now school officials worry kids in Kindergarten through high school could be stuck trying to learn inside old, decrepit buildings.

Every day at Puyallup High School, thousands of kids learn in old, beat-up portable classrooms -- out the outside, the paint is peeling and moss is growing on the roofs. Inside,it's cramped and there are no modern-day learning tools anywhere -- not even a TV.

It's all the more reason the Puyallup School District is crushed that a $279 million bond referendum that was on the ballot Tuesday failed.

"While building costs are low, while construction costs were low we had projects ready to go," said district spokesperson Brian Fox.

Fox says most of the money was earmarked for new classroom and new equipment. But now kids will have to keep trudging through the cold and rain to portables, which he says are unsafe and cost too much.

"It costs us one and half times more to heat and cool those buildings," Fox said.

The school bond needed a super majority to win. So while about 55 percent of the voters said yes, it needed 60 percent to pass.

But while the bond gained a lot of support, other said they should have bonded for a lower amount, including Puyallup City Councilman John Hopkins.

"I compared this bond with the Tacoma bond," Hopkins said.

A similar school bond in nearby Tacoma passed with flying colors, but at about 1/3 of the cost to taxpayers.

"I normally support all of these things," Hopkins said. "This case, I did think it was too high."

The people who lose the most, however, are the kids.

"We're eight ears behind on buildings and construction and it's going to be very difficult to figure out what we'll do in the future," Fox said.

The school board will meet on Feb. 25 to talk about putting the bond issue back on the ballot. That could happen as early as April, but realistically not until this fall or next year.