By Arwyn Rice
Peninsula Daily News
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“[Port Angeles High] is a community-wide asset,” said Kyle Cronk, co-spokesman for the Port Angeles School District's Long-Range Facilities Planning Task Force created by the School Board to recommend what to do with aging schools and excess real estate.
The high school campus is the oldest of the district's active schools and has the most issues, particularly in security, a major challenge, Cronk said, on the sprawling 10-building campus that overlooks Park Avenue and much of Port Angeles.
Unlike two elementary schools considered for replacement, the high school serves students throughout the district and is heavily used by the community during non-school hours, he said.
The task force was given a tour of the high school and other schools being examined for replacement, and were shown behind-the-scenes maintenance issues .
“It was really an eye-opener,” said Mark Hannah, another member of the task force.
A state inspection completed in 2007 determined that Port Angeles High's eight classroom buildings, gymnasiums and the auditorium scored between 25.5 percent and 56.4 percent out of a 100-point grading system.
All of the buildings fell below state standards for electrical and plumbing systems, seismic stability, roofing, window and energy efficiency, and fire protection and detection.
The structures also don't meet federal laws for the disabled, with steep staircases that lead up and down three distinct terraces and several buildings grouped on each terrace, state inspectors said.
Now that the task force has given its recommendation to the elected School Board, the directors must figure out a plan of action.
The first stop is whether the votes to go forward with the recommendation in January.
If so, a bond committee would be formed to select a design for the new high school and determine the amount of a bond issue to ask voters to approve, Schools Superintendent Jane Pryne said Friday.
The district has already estimated that it could take 15 years or longer to fund and replace the high school and other aging schools: Stevens Middle School and Franklin and Hamilton elementary schools.
Hannah said the task force decided it would be best to avoid a replacement schedule that would cause students to spend the majority of their school years with campuses under construction.
Under that scenario, the youngest students would start at a school under construction, transfer to the middle school with construction, then repeat it again at the high school.
“That's a whole lot of impact on the kids,” Hannah said.
Starting reconstruction with the high school would reduce the amount of time students deal with the distraction, he said.
The 60-member task force will continue to meet through June 30 to consider options on how to structure kindergarten-through-eighth-grade schools and make another recommendation on how to proceed on replacement, Pryne said.
Also, a timeline for when to begin the process to rebuild those schools must be developed, she said.
About half of the task force members are school district employees, and about half are parents or members of the community.
Many of the current task force members have chosen to stay with the task force to look at the options for organization of the lower grades, while others have asked to join a bond committee to work toward a rebuilt high school, Pryne said.
Reporter Arwyn Rice can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5070, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.