Skykomish school seeking reduced levy

The Skykomish School District is seeking constituency support to replace their current levy, and to offer some incentive to their voters, they've lowered the rate.
The ballots for the Skykomish School District's Maintenance and Operations levy will be mailed out on January 22 and must be returned by Feb. 11. The four-year levy is not a new tax, but a replacement of the current levy that will expire in the spring.
Levy funding is utilized to support library materials, computer technology, extra-curricular activities and special education resources. Additionally, it's used to help with district fundamentals such as keeping the lights and heat going, along with funding maintenance personnel.
"We've really expanded the opportunities for the kids,GÇ¥ said Skykomish School District Spokesperson Bill Atkinson. "We just want to be able to continue that."
The new levy reflects a reduction in cost when compared to the levy that's in place now. Skykomish residents are currently paying $1.83 per each $1000 of assessed property value. The new levy drops that amount down to $1.75 per $1000 of assessed property value.
Skykomish School's levy amount is set by the school board, but is limited by state law which imposes a maximum amount or "levy lid.GÇ¥ The levy amount has been set at approximately half of the maximum allowable levy.
"We're not trying to store money. We're just trying to get what we absolutely need," said Atkinson. "It's not for frivolous stuff.GÇ¥
School districts typically receive approximately 70 percent of their funding from the state, 10 percent from the federal government and 15 percent from local levies. The balance is obtained through various sources like school lunch fees.
The Skykomish School has succeeded in obtaining some esteemed recognition during recent years, including being recognized as a top performing school in the 2013 Washington State Algebra challenge.
In December 2012 the school was honored for significantly raising student achievement levels for three consecutive years. This award, known as the Title I Part A Academic Achievement Award, included special recognition received from Washington State School Superintendent Randy Dorn and Governor Jay Inslee.
Skykomish School District Superintendent Edwina Hargrave traveled to the governor's mansion in March 2013 with teachers Maggie Wheatley and Ann Walker to attend the ceremony.
"I am so proud of our students and staff for their accomplishments in improving student learning,GÇ¥ said Hargrave at the start of the school year. "I am also proud to be a part of this community which has been very supportive of our school."
Hargrave shared that in 2013, student test scores showed a marked improvement in both reading and writing skills.
"We will be working on improving our math scores and learning by offering more computer-based instruction, as well as tutoring during flex time at school,GÇ¥ said Hargrave. "We will also offer a tutor-type of afterschool program to those students who are struggling and/or did not meet standard in reading, writing or math.GÇ¥
So far the 2013 GÇô 2014 school year has been significant for the Skykomish School in several ways that stretch beyond traditional academia. Student opportunities include a drug and alcohol prevention team, a school band program and sports teams.
"This is the first time in four years that Skykomish has actually filled its own basketball team without help from Sultan,GÇ¥ said Atkinson. "So we have girls' and boys' high school basketball, plus girls' volleyball."
The Skykomish Rockets boys' basketball team has six players; the girls' team boasts seven.
"They don't get a chance to warm the bench,GÇ¥ said Atkinson. "We have no bench-warmers on our team."
Atkinson has been key in helping to support and grow the Skykomish School's sports program. In recent years, the school required assistance in order to maintain its own basketball team. To Atkinson, asking for help was far preferable to shutting down the program, so when the Skykomish School District's population became unable to sustain the team, Atkinson partnered with Sultan School District's Athletic Director, Scott Sifferman. Together they implemented a program which allowed Sultan students to play basketball on the Skykomish School's team.
Atkinson himself provided the transportation which enabled the program to be successful.
"It worked great," said Atkinson. "But now we have enough kids."
Atkinson stated that the Skykomish School is grateful to Sifferman and the Sultan School District for their contribution to the basketball program.
"We liked having the Sultan kids but it's fun having your own team,"
said Atkinson.
Skykomish School students who wish to participate in other athletic programs like football are eligible to do so in the Sultan School District via a cooperative agreement between the districts. Levy funding helps facilitate transporting those students back and forth from Skykomish to Sultan.
In addition to sporting events, classroom instruction and tutoring, the school is also utilized for events like band performances, school plays and town gatherings. In November, the school hosted a free Thanksgiving dinner which included turkey and all the trimmings. Nearly a hundred members of the community were welcomed to
the festive holiday meal.
The school's drug and alcohol prevention team volunteered their time to assist at Thanksgiving event.
The Skykomish School District No. 404 serves youth from the Skykomish community, along with Timberlane, Mill Town, Grotto, Baring and Index. The K-12 school offers small class size with a highly advantageous student-to-teacher ratio; the student population is approximately 40 students, with 10 teachers.
Atkinson shared that the school has placed an emphasis on staying relevant by equipping students with the most current high-tech equipment. Skykomish School students currently utilize laptop computers, and will be migrating towards iPads in an effort to keep in step with technology. Additionally, the school has continued its robotics program into the 2013 GÇô 2104 school year.
Levy funds also support field trips; students recently traveled to Seattle to attend the National College Fair, and in October, members of the Skykomish Drug and Alcohol Prevention Team attended a three-day prevention summit held in Yakima.
Skykomish school administration strongly feels that, just because the school is small, doesn't mean the students shouldn't have access to all the latest-and-greatest books, equipment and curriculum advancements.
Atkinson explained that the levy funds are essential for the school to continue providing its current level of instruction.
"When you read about Skykomish, it's about how well our kids are doing," said Atkinson. "We're really hoping that people will want to keep helping us with that.GÇ¥

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