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Reynolds giving citizens their due

For the Reynolds School District, the 2008 election will be different than the failed bond election of two years ago.

We wouldn't go so far as to predict voter approval of a bond request that may once again top $100 million. But we do recognize that school district leaders are working harder than ever to engage Reynolds residents in a conversation about the district's substantial facility needs.

The school board and district administrators have undertaken an aggressive schedule of community meetings - held in various parts of the district - to gain public input in advance of a board decision on the bond measure in early April.

If the board decides at that time to place the measure on the ballot, it still will have numerous obstacles to overcome, including increasing voter insecurity about the economy. But one thing would be for sure in this election - no one could argue credibly that Reynolds officials didn't ask for the public's opinion and provide ample opportunities to receive it.

The Reynolds board already has held four public forums on the proposed bond, and it has two more to go. Anyone who missed the earlier meetings can still attend on Tuesday, March 18, at H.B. Lee Middle School or on Wednesday, March 19, at Fairview Elementary School. Both forums start at 6:30 p.m.

We encourage people to participate and to learn how Reynolds' need for new or renovated buildings is being driven by a number of factors.

For one, the district has grown substantially and it will continue to grow. Reynolds High School is overcrowded - as are a number of other schools in the district.

But enrollment is just one issue. Reynolds also is still using schools that were built nearly 100 years ago and that are not designed at all for modern use.

Its students are attending class in musty basements and aging portables that never were intended for long-term use. We believe that the more people learn about the district - and the more they are exposed to the true state of some of the older schools - the more likely they are to support a bond measure.

But even people who are disinclined to vote for a bond request can bring valuable information to district leaders as they educate themselves about the public's mood.

Good suggestions for further involving citizens have already come forward in these meetings. Such public engagement is making the process in 2008 different than it was in 2006 - and it offers the possibility that the outcome in 2008 could be different as well.