Hefty price tag comes with updated high schools; two local districts to assess options

By Arwyn Rice
Peninsula Daily News

Two Clallam County school districts — Port Angeles and Sequim — are proposing plans to tear down and replace their high schools.

There is a hefty price tag for modern high school construction.

The Sequim School District’s 20-member Citizens’ Facilities Planning Committee recommended earlier this month that the district replace the high school with an $87 million new building.

On Dec. 12, the Port Angeles School District’s 60-member Long Range Facilities Task Force recommended that the district replace Port Angeles High School as soon as possible.

The Port Angeles task force did not investigate the costs involved in building a new school, and there are no estimates for the size or price of a new school at this time.

“We are not as far along in our planning as Sequim,” said Superintendent Jane Pryne.

School boards in both districts are expected to begin discussions in January about whether they want to move forward with replacement and to create a time line for when they may seek funding for construction — sourced from both bond questions before local voters and state construction grants.

Both boards also are considering remodeling or replacing other district buildings, and Sequim is considering construction of a third elementary school.

As early 20th century and Boomer-era schools age and deteriorate, districts across Washington state have been replacing old buildings with new.

In 2010, Shoreline School District voters passed a $150 million bond measure to replace the district’s Shorewood and Shorecrest high schools.

Another $35 million is expected in matching funds from the state.

In Northshore School District, Woodinville High School’s $72 million replacement will be a three-story building with 49 classrooms and a new theater.

In Tacoma, voters approved funding for the $99 million replacements for two middle schools.

Only one school district in Clallam County has built a high school this century — Quillayute Valley School District in Forks.

Forks High School, built in two phases in 2000 and 2012, replaces a 1923 school that had aged past its usable life.

In 2009, Forks-area voters approved a Quillayute Valley School District bond issue for $11,500,000 for the construction of the Forks High School Addition Project, and in 2010, the district received $8,808,711.27 in state assistance for the construction of the project.

The 47,500-square-foot east wing of the school was replaced in 2000, and the 39,000-square-foot addition and a 3,000-square-foot vocational training building were completed in 2013 for
$12 million.

When the addition of the west wing, the new Forks High School reached its final size of 86,500 square feet, designed for the district’s brick-and-mortar high school enrollment of about 300 students.

Sequim High School buildings constructed in 1935, 1955, 1967, and 1980 were intended to accommodate 650 students.

Two buildings added in 1999 and 2000 brought that number to an additional 150 students.

But enrollment at the school has outgrown the aging, sprawling complex of disconnected buildings, said Brian Lewis, the district’s business manager.

Sequim High School’s current enrollment is 985 students, nearly 200 more than the school is built for, and there is projected growth for another 300 students in the district, he said.

The committee responsible for studying the problem recommended a budget of $87 million for a 200,000 square-foot new high school.

Lewis said that the school would be built to keep students under a single roof.

It would be sized to fit a growing city for the next 50 years.

“We don’t want to be confronted with the need to build a second high school,” he said.

The Port Angeles task force recommended this month that the district replace Port Angeles High School as soon as possible.

The advisory group also urged the board to consider the replacement of a middle school and two elementary schools at a later date.

Currently, 1,157 students are enrolled at Port Angeles High School, the largest school on the North Olympic Peninsula.

Six of the 10 Port Angeles High School buildings that are stacked on terraces on the sloping school property were built in 1953. They were remodeled in 1958 and 1978.

Four other buildings — the cafeteria, auditorium, vocational technology and a two-story classroom building at the top of the campus — were built in 1958 and remodeled in 1978.

There are also six portable classrooms in use at the school. They were installed in 1992.

Construction costs for new buildings can be reduced by choosing multi-story designs — and by preserving existing large, expensive structures, such as auditoriums — according to Port Angeles School District studies.

Funding source

The Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction provides funding to help replace qualified schools — those which have been determined by state inspectors to be below state school safety and infrastructure standards.

Both the 60-year-old Port Angeles High School and Sequim High School, where the oldest building still in use is 78 years old, qualify for replacement, based on the most recent inspections of each school.

The state will pay a percentage of project costs, using a formula that considers the state’s budget and measures the district’s ability to raise money by taking into account the number of students, local property values and current bonding capacity.

In Port Angeles, the state’s 2013 formula would provide 50.98 percent of the cost of a replacement high school, while in Sequim the state would cover 25.48 percent of the bill for construction.

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Reporter Arwyn Rice can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5070, or at arwyn.rice@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: December 29. 2013 6:52PM
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