What is next? | Editorial

The defeat of the Mercer Island School District $196 million proposal to rebuild three new elementary schools, a middle school and more, brings us to an important crossroads in our community’s future. The goal? Huge. It is nothing less than setting the course for the future of education on the Island.

School leaders are disappointed and chastened by the outcome. Those who championed the ‘no’ vote are pleased that they were heard and heeded.

So now what? There are responsibilities on both sides. At the School Board meeting on April 26, school leaders acknowledged that they needed to take a new approach to addressing the issues presented by the district’s aging schools. They want to hear first from the community and those who opposed the bond so vehemently, before they determine how to proceed.

The people who campaigned against the bond have obligations, too. Those who championed remodelling existing buildings and a new school on the North end must set aside those absolutes to come to the table without prejudice. They need to take a tour through the existing buildings to understand what happens in classrooms today. Both sides must come to understand the other. Such discussions need to take place in a manner that offers real progress.

This is going to take balance and compromise. But overall, it is going to take communication and a lot of it. School leaders feel that they had presented many opportunities for the community to hear or take part in the planning process. Apparently, many did not feel that was enough. The school district leadership needs to form a communications plan at once. They have listening meetings set up in the coming weeks, but beyond that they need to establish a forum and a means to share input — early and often — with the community.

As for hindsight, blame and resentment, that has to be left behind.


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