A bill inspired and requested by the Pateros School District to help school districts restore their facilities following natural disasters was signed into law by Gov. Jay Inslee today.
House Bill 1003, sponsored by Rep. Brad Hawkins, R-East Wenatchee, will pull state resources and agencies together to develop a model policy to guide school districts following natural disasters, such as wildfires, earthquakes, mudslides, and flooding.
The legislation is in response to the Pateros School District, which suffered more than $2 million of damage to its only school building during the Carlton Complex Fire in 2014. It was also supported by the Arlington and Chehalis School Districts whose communities suffered from landslide and flood natural disasters in recent years.
“I am excited to see this bill become law,” said Hawkins. “My hope is this gives school districts a starting point for what to do, who to call, and what resources are available if there is a natural disaster that directly affects another school’s infrastructure and school year.”
The Carlton Complex Fire’s damage to Pateros School District occurred just weeks before the school year was scheduled to begin. School administrators had to scramble to replace the roof, carpeting, ceiling tiles and more, while obtaining funding, working with insurance, and acquiring a waiver from the state to start classes just five days late.
“In the days following the disaster, Lois told me something like this would be helpful as a starting point for school districts. As a former school board member, I agreed and looked for a way to help statewide,” continued Hawkins.
The bill directs the Washington State School Directors’ Association to provide a model policy for school districts to know who to contact, what to do first, and how to seek financial and informational support at both the state and federal levels. The model policy, once developed by a variety of stakeholders, would be optional for school districts.
House Bill 1003 passed the House 95-1 and the Senate 48-0 before being signed into law by the governor.
Photo: Jon Wyss, Okanogan County Long-Term Recovery Group Chairman, and Lois Davies, Pateros School District Superintendent, testified before the House Education Committee last session in favor of House Bill 1003.