I was first elected to Portland’s school board in 2013. During that campaign and in the years since, I have met countless teachers, parents and other community members who are frustrated at the shameful condition of our city’s elementary schools and the seemingly endless delays fixing them.

At Reiche, which is 60 percent children of color and has perhaps the most ethnically diverse population in the state, students and teachers struggle most with excessive noise in the wall-less school where enrollment has soared in recent years.

Longfellow is not Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant, so children with disabilities can’t attend their neighborhood school and parents with disabilities can’t access their children’s school. At Lyseth and Presumpscot, kids go to class in rundown trailers that lack running water, forcing children as young as 6 years old to walk to the main building – alone – to go to the bathroom, even in the dead of winter.

Everyone agrees that these conditions fail to meet minimum standards for health, safety or learning. And yet, today I meet parents who themselves were students at these elementary schools when these issues first came up.

That’s how long we’ve been delaying action, always with the excuse that if we wait long enough and let these schools get bad enough, eventually the state will come in and pay for them.

But here’s the reality: We’ve been applying to the state for these schools for 16 years – that’s nearly three full generations of elementary school students – and for 16 years the state has said no.

The state has rejected applications for Reiche and Longfellow four times and Lyseth and Presumpscot three times. And little has changed in the state scoring process to increase our chances.

In the current cycle, Portland is applying to the state for a whopping seven schools: the four elementary schools, plus Portland, Portland Arts & Technology and Casco Bay high schools. This is despite the fact that we’ve never gotten more than one school in a funding cycle and, on average, the state pays to rebuild just three schools statewide a year.

It’s just not realistic to think the state is going to pay for all these Portland schools. In the current cycle, there are 81 schools applying for this small pot of state money, including 52 new applications that haven’t previously been evaluated. There are big needs across the state, including in numerous rural districts. And it all comes down to decisions that will be made by Paul LePage’s administration.

Plus, the way you qualify for state money is to have the worst, most dangerous school buildings in the state, and that is not something we should aspire to. Instead, we should join municipalities all around us, from South Portland to Westbrook, and bond locally to fix all four elementary schools by passing Question 3 on the ballot this November.

And we should continue to pursue the state process to renovate PATHS and Casco Bay and Portland high schools, which are bigger and more complex projects.

Finally, I respectfully disagree with my City Council colleagues who think it will be easy to simply come back and pass another two-school bond in a couple years. We cannot bind a future council to pass anything. Most if not all of my council colleagues will face re-election before they get a chance to vote on this again. We have no idea who will be on the council or who the mayor will be in 2019, 2020 or 2021.

I’ve seen how much work it took to get the council to pass this bond. It’s taken seven task forces and 23 years of parents, teachers and school board members writing letters, studying competing options and attending charettes and many meetings and hearings. The most recent push to get this bond on the ballot began before the majority of my council colleagues were even on the council, myself included (I was elected last year), and has required thousands of hours of thankless, unpaid work by volunteers.

That’s why my message to voters is simple: Don’t pass up the chance to fix these schools. Not after we’ve come so far. Not after 23 years of waiting for the state. If voters reject this bond now, who knows when we’ll get another chance?

Please join me in voting for Question 3 to fix all four schools.