2012 sees first building in 50 years
Washington Schools Superintendent Mike Jorgensen chuckled when he said all the school district had done this year is open the first new building in 50 years, start a 1+1 computer program at the high school, realign the grades, and take about $1 off property taxes.
He said 2012 saw the culmination of many projects that the Washington Community School District has been working to implement for many years. The first thing that jumped to his mind was the opening of the new Washington High School building that had been sought by the district for over a decade. The new building, which was built onto the former junior high, now houses ninth through 12th grade students in the building.
“When people come in and see it, they are so impressed,” Jorgensen said. “It is certainly a selling point for the district right now.”
Jorgensen said the district has noticed a decrease in classroom disciplinary referrals at the high school. He believes with the 1+1 program the students are more engaged and causing less trouble.
The intent is for the program to be implemented at lower grades, Jorgensen said. He believes these students will not be issued laptops, but rather tablet computers. He believes the program will move to the middle school in the next couple of years. Recently the Washington County Riverboat Foundation gave a grant to fund 80 tablets for the middle school.
With the opening of the high school, the former high school building now serves as Washington Middle School. Grades six, seven and eight now occupy the building. Jorgensen said that many people had volunteered to help paint and repair the building over the summer to make sure it was ready for the students in the fall. Several of the instructors also worked through the summer to prepare the school.
“It still has lots of things that could be upgraded,” Jorgensen said. “We could certainly put a lot more money into that facility if we had it. I still think it is a lot better facility than it was a year ago.”
Jorgensen said that about a $1 tax cut was recorded this year on top of an 80-cent tax cut from the previous year. He expects the district to further lower its tax askings in the coming year.
“The valuations did go up, but our property tax payers are still paying less,” he said.
During the coming year, Jorgensen expects the school board to request a tax referendum to replace the boiler in the high school wing that used to be Washington Junior High. He said depending on what the board decides, the issue could be for $900,000 or $2 million.
Jorgensen said the district ended the last fiscal year with over $3 million in unspent revenue. He said this is a change from 2008, when the school was over $100,000 in the red.