South Kitsap works to heal wounds over fractious school bond battle

PORT ORCHARD, Wash. -- With 2,600 students, South Kitsap High School is the largest in the state.

The size of the school -- once a source of pride for this growing community -- has become somewhat of a burden. Some say it’s taken a toll on the morale of the community, but some former students have launched a campaign to turn that around.

“We weren’t passing school bonds," says Port Orchard resident Eric Worden. “The energy level is getting kind of down.”

The latest defeat is a proposed $184 million bond to build a second high school, which failed to get the required 60% of the vote last November. Worden says the rift over the second high school has taken a toll on the morale of the community.

“When I went to South Kitsap High School, people asked what school you went to, and we actually held our head up high and said ‘South Kitsap,' the largest school in the state. Now people are saying it with their heads down," Worden says.

Frustrated by the lack of progress, some families have moved their kids out of the district for high school. Enrollment district-wide is slightly down this school year, to approximately 9,500 students.

“Education has changed and no longer is it just a given you’re going to your neighborhood school”, says newly hired South Kitsap Schools Superintendent Tim Winter. “There’s a lot of choices out there.”

Seeing this trend,  Worden and fellow resident Kimberly Shaw launched a social media campaign to rally the community and embrace the high school that they do have. They are encouraging neighbors to fly their maroon and gold South Kitsap HS "Wolf flags" proudly around town. And from there, a movement was born.

“Our goal is to get them to as many businesses to support the school, and homeowners as well,” Worden says. “It’s going pretty strong.”

They have sold 400 flags so far. On football game days, flags line the streets of downtown Port Orchard. Eric and Kimberly also launched a Facebook page, on which folks post pictures of the flag flying all over town, and all over the world.

“I’ve had service members flying them in Afghanistan, Qatar, people have taken them to Italy, Germany, all over the place. It’s been pretty neat.”