Voters in the Highline school district south of Seattle will be deciding whether to approve a two-year levy to pay for new computers and other technology. The shift to remote learning in the pandemic has highlighted the need.
The levy would collect a total of $32.5 million over two years. But the property tax rate would go down a little bit even if voters approve the measure. That’s because some general obligation bonds the district refinanced last year will be paid off next year and the district’s operations levy rate is set to decline a bit from this year to next.
Highline Superintendent Susan Enfield said when the pandemic began, the district handed out about 13,000 Chromebooks to students. The Highline district serves almost 18,000 students in SeaTac, Burien, Normandy Park, Des Moines and other areas south of Seattle.
“The reality, though, is that some of those devices are old and they don’t support all of the programs that our students need,” she said in a recent webinar. “So it’s critical we’re able to replace these aging computers and devices for our kids, so that everybody has a working device.”
Enfield said the levy also would benefit educators by providing new technology and training. She said teachers have had to get up to speed on a lot of new programs this year, and they would benefit from additional professional development.
She said the levy also will help provide internet access for students. Highline has distributed 2,300 Wi-Fi hot spots to students and is working with the City of Burien to connect families to broadband service through Comcast.
“We thought very carefully about putting a ballot measure up for voters knowing this is tough times, but the reality is our students and staff need this technology, they need this support,” Enfield said.
Enfield recently said the school district will continue with remote learning through the first semester, which ends Jan. 28.