Public tells of hopes for new Port Angeles High School during first of three design forums

By Arwyn Rice
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — A new Port Angeles High School should be a “crown jewel” for the community, and the school's performing arts center should be the centerpiece, community members said during a forum this week.

About 30 people attended Tuesday night the first of three public forums to design a new Port Angeles High campus. No others have been scheduled yet.

The new school would replace the collection of buildings at 304 E. Park Ave. that now house about 1,150 students. Parts of the campus are 61 years old.

The School Board voted in January to shoot for a February 2015 date for a bond election to fund the construction of a new high school, reserving the option of changing that date if more preparation is needed before the proposal is presented to voters.

To place a measure on the February special election ballot, the board must approve a resolution by Dec. 26.

The amount of the proposed bond has been estimated at between $80 million and $100 million, but the amount won't be known until the architects draw up preliminary plans.

The School Board will discuss the high school at a workshop from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. today at the North Olympic Peninsula Skill Center, 905 W. Ninth St.

Two sites considered

Michael McGavock of McGranahan Architects of Tacoma, who moderated the meeting, told the audience that two sites are under consideration for the proposed new school.

They are at the northeastern and southwestern corners of the present 33-acre campus.

The board envisions a multistory structure, saying that is more cost-effective than single-story designs.

The gymnasium would be evaluated to see whether it will be more cost-effective to modify and update the 1953 structure or completely replace it, the board has said.

The school's auditorium, known as the Port Angeles Performing Arts Center, would be expected to remain in place and become a part of the new school because of the high cost of auditorium design and construction.

The arts center is a centerpiece for community concerts, plays and events, and needs to have better public access, an improved entrance, an expanded lobby and bathrooms, and improved accessibility, several community members said.

They also said the new school should have modern performing arts and vocational education areas, a secure campus, updatable technology systems and easy community access during non-school hours.

Attendees also said the school's design needs to be energy-efficient, have outdoor spaces for students to spend time in the open air and larger social gathering spaces to reduce the social fragmentation encouraged by the current school design.

Security

School security was a major issue brought up Tuesday.

The school can currently be accessed from just about any direction, and the new school needs to be secure not just from possible intruders but to contain and control students, several people said.

Freshman and sophomore students are not supposed to be able to leave campus during the day but often do because there is no way to monitor the many different ways of entering and leaving campus, community members said.

Technology

A new school should be designed so that as technology progresses and changes, it can be easily added or replaced, McGavock was told.

The current high school design restricts the technology that can be installed in classrooms due to an electrical system that is inadequate to support the equipment.

Every classroom needs to be up-to-date in education technology, not just a few computer labs, participants said.

They suggested that classrooms should be designed with a microphone and sound system for the teacher or with improved acoustic design so teachers can be heard better by students.

Bond offset

Existing construction bonds will be paid off at about the same time a new bond, if it were approved, would begin, lessening the effect on taxpayers, said School Board member Patti Happe.

“[The cost of construction bonds for the construction of] Jefferson Elementary goes away in November 2015,” Happe said.

That would not entirely offset a high school bond, which would be larger than the expiring amount, she said.

If the bond were approved, it would be the only debt the district carried, board members said.

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

Last modified: June 25. 2014 7:52PM
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