By Joe Smillie
Peninsula Daily News
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A special committee established to review the adequacy of the district’s facilities turned over a list of proposed projects, including a new elementary school and a replacement high school, to the School Board on Wednesday night.
“Our consensus is that this is a vision — a solid vision for the school district, for the future,” said Sue Ellen Riesau, co-chair of the 15-member committee.
The committee was formed in April and has held a number of community meetings to assess the district’s future facilities needs.
Superintendent Kelly Shea said the board now will consult financial experts to gauge the costs and payment options.
Shea said the district has invited representatives from financial firm DA Davidson to speak to the board about financing options at its Jan. 6 meeting.
“That’s a big number. That’s why we wanted to start with figuring out what our needs are,” Shea said.
“Now the board will know and understand what those needs are so they can make the most informed decision about how to move forward and what we really wanted to prioritize.”
Cost estimates were determined by BLRB Architects. The district has paid BLRB $79,000 to help the committee create the list of needs.
“I have no idea where it’s going to go from here,” Shea said.
The facilities committee was instructed not to consider cost when it looked at the district’s needs.
“It’s definitely important for us to be looking at what the district is going to need going into the future,” School Board President John Bridge said.
“But we have to make sure whatever we do is reasonable to ask the community to pay for.”
Top shelf item on the committee’s list is an $87 million high school, which would entail 172,330 square feet of new construction built around the 1999 and 2000 vintage F and H buildings on the high school campus’s north end.
Second on the list, at $25.5 million, is the new 65,000-square-foot elementary school to replace the 1972 vintage Helen Haller.
Third, at $16.5 million, is additions and modernizations of Greywolf, projects that call for 17,000 square feet of new construction and renovation of more than 43,000 square feet of existing building.
Turning the current Helen Haller into space for the Olympic Peninsula Academy and the alternative high school ranked next, with the remodel of 46,313 square feet listed at $11.2 million.
The new stadium and ballfield renovations were priced at $9,125,000.
A central warehouse for operations and to store supplies was priced at $5.2 million.
Renovation of the Community School gym building to upgrade the heating and cooling systems and potentially resite the band and choir rooms was priced at $5 million.
A new roof for Sequim Middle School was priced at $1 million.
With their open campuses of disconnected buildings, the committee felt Helen Haller Elementary and Sequim High School present security concerns.
“You walk through Helen Haller, you walk through the high school — both are almost impossible to make secure,” committee member David Mattingley said.
The committee’s suggestion was to build new schools that would be contained under single roofs.
The plan would include a remodel of the existing Helen Haller to house Olympic Peninsula Academy, a facility currently in the Community School that the district offers to assist home-schooled students.
The district’s alternative high school also could be moved into the remodeled Haller.
Included in that plan is removal of the pod building fronting Fir Street that obstructs views to the school’s four other buildings.
Projections for long-term future growth call for another 300 students moving into the district by 2020.
Lack of space for additional students was one of the prime reasons the district decided this year not to offer all-day kindergarten classes.
Shifting population also has pushed the line that divides Helen Haller and Greywolf elementary schools to just two blocks west of Helen Haller’s current location, said Paul Haines, the city’s public works director and a member of the facilities committee.
“Kids that live within a couple blocks from Helen Haller can’t walk to school,” Haines said.
With Sequim’s population expected to grow to the east, where many undeveloped lots already exist, Haines said, building a new elementary school there would reduce traffic and maintenance costs as well as develop a better sense of community in the neighborhood.
“Place facilities where there are people,” Haines said. “Grade schools are this remarkable magnet. That’s where people want to live.”
The recommendation also called for construction of a new 3,000-seat covered grandstand and renovated football field, track and baseball/softball fields.
“They’re below the WIAA standards for athletic fields,” Bob Lindstrom of BLRB said.
New facilities could allow Sequim athletes to play advanced-level state playoff games at home instead of having to travel to other stadiums approved by state athletic officials.
Synthetic turf and track surfaces also could reduce maintenance costs, Lindstrom said.
Bridge speculated the new facilities could boost revenues for the school.
“Are we going to get some extra revenue from Neah Bay using it when they advance to all their state championships?” Bridge said.
Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Joe Smillie can be reached at 360-681-2390, ext. 5052, or at email@example.com.