The need to replace or repair a school building has regularly troubled Peninsulans. In Ilwaco in 1959 the question was whether to rebuild or remodel the antediluvian and inadequate Ilwaco grade and high school building.
Meetings were held, mused the Observer's editor, "to again discuss the proposed building project in order to ascertain if taxpayers have mellowed toward spending one-half million dollars cobbling up the old building."
At one meeting, school board member Dr. J. Harold Clarke described the existing building as "sound but the educational program is hampered because of certain obsolescence especially in the cafeteria and in science, music, home economics and industrial art departments ... the library is small and highly inadequate." A new gymnasium was needed.
Under the heading of money Clarke reported that, while some people thought the cost was too high, it was estimated that these improvements to the existing building could be paid for by an annual levy of six or seven mills over a 20-year period by bonding the whole area.
Editor J. M. O'Neil made no secret of his feelings. In March 1959 he laid it out: he was against spending "one-half million dollars on a cobbling-up job" of an old plant "when for no more money, locally raised and with state aid, we could have a brand new high school in a suitable location and thereby live up to state standards of having the grade school and high school separated."
There was some question throughout the community as to whether something had to be done immediately - the school was not yet overcrowded - and so editor O'Neil concluded, "Whenever the time IS right for school expansion, then let's get family-minded and build to reap something new for our half million dollars rather than something cobbled."
By 1967 and with the consolidation of Peninsula's assorted school districts into one an accomplished fact, the subject of a new high school was back in the news. "The recommended repairing of the present high and grade school building in Ilwaco is planned - in addition to the proposed new combination high and junior high building." A measure would be put before the voters.
"Editorial. Being as the time - next Tuesday - is near for election, I had better make an explanation of figuring one's out-of-pocket tax at a given millage.
"If one's property is appraised to have a true valuation of $10,000.00 and the assessor uses the 25 per cent of the true valuation in order to arrive at an 'assessed valuation', as shown on one's tax statement, the assessed valuation would then be $2500.
"So if the amount to be taxed is nine mills (.009), it would be figured by taking .009 times the assessed valuation - $2500 - point off three places, and one gets the answer of $22.50.
"The taxpayer will find a box on his tax statement which gives the 'assessed valuation' and his amount is multiplied by whatever millage one desires to figure.
"So much for that."
-Nov. 3, 1967
"According to County Auditor Verna Jacobson's final figures, the proposed new high school building for this area went down to defeat 678 to 519. The 60 per cent [super majority requirement] would have required 716.20 votes to put over the $975,000 bond issue. Bond issues all over Washington and Oregon met with defeat."
-Nov. 10, 1967
"Letters To Editor. We would like to publicly thank the Ocean Beach School Board for the tireless energy expended in attempting to provide the Peninsula with a new high school. We hope the action by the voters will not dull their enthusiasm. It is difficult to understand how anyone who has a child attending the out-moded high school or who is interested in the future of our community and country could oppose construction of a new building. ... Anything as valuable as the future education of our students is well worth fighting for. Sincerely, Sid & Bette Snyder."
-Nov. 10, 1967
So the school board and the interested citizens gathered themselves together and tried again. Committeemen conducted a Peninsula-wide opinion poll asking if voters thought we needed more school rooms ("Yes," said the majority); if so, should we build a new high school. ("Yes," repeated the majority.) "The overall impression of those taking the poll was that most people are willing to vote taxes for improvement of the schools, and they are recommending to the school board that [it] submit another proposition for improving the schools ... soon."
The next few years were consumed in planning and holding elections which failed to achieve the 60 percent required participation by a heartbreaking fraction or two of a percent.
In 1970, after the school board directors advised voters that the student population threatened to outgrow the old building, that construction costs were spiraling ever upward, and that the plan in hand could be built for less than other districts were presently having to pay to build a high school, the motion was again laid before the voters.
"We must consider," reasoned the board, "that the bond levy develops local tax money that stays home. This money is spent LOCALLY - on our OWN ASSETS - for OUR OWN NEEDS! Also, local youngsters can have the benefits of a new completed high school now with a substantial portion of the tax burden being carried by non-resident property owners. [Aha!] A homeowner with a home worth $10,000 will pay $10 (tax deductible) dollars per year."
-Sept. 11, 1970
And so, on Nov. 6, 1970, the Observer was relieved and pleased to report, "The Ocean Beach School district special levy for an $850,000 bond issue was sanctioned by a vote of 1176 to 723."
"At the opening of bids in Treasurer Ross Neilson's office in the courthouse Tuesday at 11 a.m. it was learned that Seattle First National Bank had the best bid for purchase of $850,000 worth of Ocean Beach School District bonds, and the bank was awarded the bonds at an interest rate of 5.786 per cent. ... the $850,000 bond sale was favorably voted by district people at the last general election and the money is to be used for completing construction of the district's new junior-senior high school."
-Jan. 22, 1971
"Over 1200 residents, students, and dignitaries were present during the Ilwaco high school dedication ceremonies held Saturday, May 6th at 2:30 p.m. in the new school gymnasium. ... [The architect, Mr.] Norris formally presented the building to School Board Chairman Clyde Sayce. Mr. Sayce [replied], "I accept this school on behalf of Carl Aase [former superintendent], students, school board directors, and on behalf of the entire Ocean Beach School District."
-May 12, 1972
With that, it was done. It hadn't been easy and it hadn't happened overnight, but the Peninsula had succeeded in bringing about its new high school.