Sequim schools setting building priorities ahead of construction bond request

By Joe Smillie
Peninsula Daily News

SEQUIM –– As it prepares to consider asking voters for a construction bond, the Sequim School Board is prioritizing a $170 million list of projects suggested by a special citizens committee.

Though the district’s enrollment has dropped in recent years, growth projections have an additional 300 students attending Sequim schools over the next 30 years.

Superintendent Kelly Shea has stressed the imminent importance of expanding space to teach elementary students.

“Our needs are not necessarily to accommodate growth at this time,” Shea told the School Board last week.

“It’s to accommodate what kids we do have now.”

The school district’s facilities will be among topics discussed when the board meets at 7 p.m. today in the district board room, 503 N. Sequim Ave.

After studying the issue for most of 2013, the citizens panel turned over its recommended list of projects that would carry a price tag of $169,287,324.57.

Cost estimates were determined by Tacoma-based consulting firm BLRB Architects. The district paid BLRB $79,000 to help the committee create the list of needs.

As the district stands now, classroom space is limited at both Helen Haller and Greywolf elementary schools. That lack of space was the primary factor the board opted not to offer all-day kindergarten classes for the 2013-14 school year.

Growth in the district has come primarily from the east, and officials believe that trend will continue. Shea noted that the attendance line that divides students between Greywolf and Helen Haller schools is two blocks west of Helen Haller.

The plan forwarded by the facilities committee recommended a $25.5 million, 65,000-square-foot elementary school to replace Haller and a $16.5 million renovation of Greywolf that would add 17,000 square feet of new space and renovate more than 43,000 square feet of the existing building.

The current Haller building would be remodeled for $11.2 million to house Olympic Peninsula Academy, a district resource for home-schooled students, and the alternative high school.

Other suggestions from the committee included a new 3,000-seat stadium and athletic complex for $9.125 million and a central warehouse for maintenance and supplies priced at $5.2 million.

State standards recommend 450 students in elementary schools, Shea said.

Brian Lewis, the district’s business manager, said the district now has about 1,200 students attending elementary classes.

Lewis said schools operate most efficiently at around 600 students.

The facilities committee’s plan also called for the possible future construction of a new school on the site of the existing Helen Haller that could be a third elementary school or could be used as a single school for fourth- and fifth-graders from both elementary schools.

The remodel planned for now would renovate 46,313-square-feet of the existing Helen Haller, including removal of the front pod of the four-pod school, which school officials have criticized for being a security hazard on the open campus.

Lindstrom said the district could do more in an $11.2 million remodel of the building than if it was to demolish it and build a new one.

Security at the high school’s open campus also is a concern to school officials and the driving factor behind the committee’s recommendation for an $87 million high school.

That plan calls for 172,330 square feet of new construction built around the 1999- and 2000-vintage F and H buildings at the high school campus’ north end.

A new main entrance would be established on the school’s north end off Hendrickson Road.

In addition to keeping students more secure by keeping them in a single building, Lindstrom said it would be much more energy-efficient.

The current high school — a collection of separate pod buildings — means more windows and walls facing the elements, and also includes separate and individual heating and cooling systems.

Lewis has posted bond financing options along with other information about the facilities planning process on the school district’s website at http://tinyurl.com/pdn-sequimschools.

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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: January 20. 2014 7:02PM
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