Sequim schools OK funds for action plan

By Joe Smillie
Peninsula Daily News

SEQUIM –– Sequim School District directors have unanimously approved a $79,980 contract with Tacoma-based BLRB Architects to study whether the district needs to ask voters for funding to replace or remodel its facilities.

BLRB will now spend the rest of this year looking over the district’s current schools and discussing with citizens and staff whether changes are needed and what those changes may be.

Depending on what the firm hears, the School Board could elect as soon as December to go to voters with a bond proposal to pay for the new facilities.

‘Set the stage’

“Planning a bond for a community like Sequim is so important,” Lee Fenton, BLRB’s managing principal, told the School Board at its meeting Monday night.

“This can set the stage for decades and decades and decades.”

The district budgeted $80,000 for the study, said Brian Lewis, district business manager. The contract will be paid out of the current fiscal year and the next fiscal year, which begins in September.

BLRB was selected from nine design firms that submitted their qualifications for the project.

Superintendent Kelly Shea said the district began to review its facilities in the wake of the school shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., last December.

The open design of the high school and Helen Haller Elementary, he said, make it difficult to lock them down in emergencies.

Also, space is crunched in the district’s schools.

Proposals from state officials for all-day kindergartens would require additional classrooms, as the morning and afternoon kindergarten classes currently share the same rooms.

And though enrollment in Sequim schools has remained flat during the past decade, another boom like the one in the 1990s could put the district in a bind for space.

Community input

The most important factor in determining if a bond is needed, Fenton said, is community input.

He proposed the district organize a special group with members pulled from throughout the district to talk over the remodel/rebuild options.

“At the end of the day, it needs to be driven by a group of citizens,” Fenton said.

He presented the board with a timeline that has a special panel meeting over the next eight to nine months, starting in April.

Board Chairwoman Virginia O’Neil suggested the panel be guided by Shea.

A previous committee formed to review the school’s facilities, on which she was a member, had several “issues” in reporting to the board, O’Neil said.

“You weren’t as nimble as you would be as a committee to the superintendent,” she said.

The School Board on Monday night joined 60 other districts in the state in signing the Washington State School Directors Association’s McCleary Resolution, which demands that the Legislature fund basic public education as laid out in the state constitution and a state Supreme Court ruling.

The resolution was proposed in late February by the state association, which asked all school boards to approve and submit it to their state legislators.

Director Bev Horan and Shea were among a contingent of North Olympic Peninsula educators who attended a Washington State School Directors Association Legislative Conference in Olympia last weekend.

Legislators, Horan reported, were trying to come up with funding for schools without draining other programs.

“Getting education more funding so we can do our jobs will be at the cost of a number of other programs that are important to children outside of school,” Shea said.

A flurry of school reform bills were filed after the Supreme Court last year ruled that school funding was not meeting the constitutional obligation and ordered funding reforms by 2018.

The suit was filed by Chimacum resident Stephanie McCleary, whose name is on the resolution.

O’Neil to retire

Also Monday night, O’Neil informed her colleagues that she has decided not to seek another term on the School Board.

Representing District 2, O’Neil, 52, has served on the board since 2007.

The mother of three daughters who have gone through the Sequim school system was elected to her current term in 2009.

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Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Joe Smillie can be reached at 360-681-2390, ext. 5052, or at jsmillie@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: March 19. 2013 6:02PM
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