Tacoma voters to decide the fate of deteriorating schools

TACOMA, Wash. - The Tacoma School District says its buildings are crumbling - and time is running out.

On Tuesday voters will decide if they're willing to pay more to make major fixes as they cast their ballots for or against Proposition 1. The measure, if approved, would raise $500 million for school repairs and upgrades.

One of those schools is Tacoma's Boze Elementary, where children know what's expected of them. They've learned that all children are capable of success - no exceptions.

But Principal Aaron Wilkins says it's hard to make the grade when your building is failing. Inside the 44-year old school building - low ceilings leak.

"We'd probably fill up a bucket," says Wilkins.

And outside fences are easily climbed - even knocked over.

"It doesn't take much more than a couple times to push on it for it to come down," says the principal.

Dan Vopel, spokesman for Tacoma Schools, says, "We have 14 schools that are old and deteriorating ... and we'd like to have them modernized, replaced and repaired."

In order to completely renovate Boze and 13 other schools, voters must pass Proposition 1 on Tuesday. According to the Tacoma School District, the $500 million bond measure would cost the average Tacoma homeowner about $58 a year.

Some Tacoma residents say they already pay the highest property tax rate in the state.

Meanwhile, supporters say this new bond will help upgrade schools like the Science and Math Institute, which holds its classes in portables at Point Defiance Zoo.

Back at Boze Elementary, Wilkins says the crumbling walls would be torn down then built back up to make them stronger - and build a stronger future for its students.

"We know a building is not the miracle changer, but this is a community school, and we want it to represent what it is we're trying to accomplish every day in the classroom," he says.

The last time Tacoma voters passed a major school improvements measure was back in 2001. Similar measures failed in both 2006 and 2009.