SEQUIM — As Sequim School District moves forward with its capital projects, Olympic Peninsula Academy staff and board representatives say they’re not worried about the school’s future.
Sequim School District and its board of directors approved a new plan for its capital project plans Jan. 22 following a levy that passed in February 2017 that allowed the school to demolish the unused portions of the 1949 Sequim Community School and central kitchen.
This new plan falls in line with the district’s $5.75 million budget from the levy to build a new central kitchen and also allows the school to apply for more than $4.1 million in state matching funds.
A possible downside to this plan is that Olympic Peninsula Academy (OPA) will need to relocate at some point during the demolition and deconstruction process.
OPA is an alternative learning experience program that houses about 100 students from first through 12th grades. Students learn in a community environment and some also take classes at the middle or high school. With OPA’s current location at 350 W. Fir St., it makes it easy for students to navigate to and from classes.
While the district’s chosen option will supposedly displace OPA at some point, Sequim Superintendent Gary Neal said for the remainder of the 2017-18 school year OPA will stay put.
“The biggest thing is that we want to try and keep [students] together in OPA as long as we can,” Neal said.
“We’re trying not to interrupt services for OPA classes and the cafeteria and the central kitchen.”
Kaylene Byrne, OPA Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) president, said the board is OK with the district and school board decision.
“The board and the staff are really committed to working with the school board and the district to facilitate a new location,” Byrne said.
“We’re comfortable with the district’s decisions and we’re confident we’re going to find a location.”
Byrne said Neal has met with OPA parents and staff twice to discuss its current plans for OPA, which is to keep the school where it is for the rest of the school year.
While the school is staying put for now, Byrne said if it does relocate that keeping it in one central learning environment is an important aspect of OPA, as well as keeping it close to the middle and high school for students who travel back and forth to classes.
“One of the things that makes OPA unique is how a lot of the learning structure is mixed-grade classes,” Byrne said.
“One concern in relocating is finding a solution allowing OPA to stay a 1-12 program. Two separate locations would take away from the design of OPA.”
Another concern voiced by parents, she said, was in regard to a new location being close to the middle and high school.
“Right now [the location] allows them to walk back and forth as needed,” Byrne said.
A possibility Neal has considered if OPA is to relocate would be to put in portables to house OPA classrooms. Byrne said this is an idea that the board would welcome.
“From a PTO board standpoint, we would love to see portables as an option because it would keep OPA close to facilities they need,” Byrne said.
The district has been receptive to the idea of putting together an OPA parent advisory group or task force to help in the decision making as to where OPA would be housed in the future, she added.
“We feel the board has really respected allowing representatives from OPA staff and parents to provide a task force receptive to that idea,” she said.
“It invokes more confidence in finding a solution that works.”
Kim Glasser, an OPA high school English and health teacher, said Neal has been very informative as far as the district and the board’s plans for OPA.
“I think we felt very supported and very understood,” Glasser said.
“I think they are doing the best they can to figure out what they can do,” she said. “And to stay within the situation financially.”
Glasser’s classroom had to be moved earlier in the school year due to water saturation levels in her previous classroom at OPA. She now teaches in the library but said the district is very aware of the water saturation levels at the school.
She said to her knowledge OPA is staying in its current location, and despite her classroom being relocated, Glasser said for now staying in the same location would probably be the best situation for everyone.
“That would be ideal,” Glasser said.
“OPA families and staff, we’re all very flexible and student-centered and trying to focus on what’s best for them.”
Byrne said the OPA community would like to hope for a final relocation of the school in the future.
“One thing we would like to see moving toward is the final relocation of OPA,” she said.
“We’re looking at this location as a short-term relocation leading to a permanent home.”
The OPA PTO’s next board meeting is Feb. 26 where parents can voice their concerns if they have any regarding OPA’s future, Byrne said.
The next Sequim School District Board meeting is set for 6 p.m. Monday, March 5 at the district board room, 503. N. Sequim Ave.
Erin Hawkins is a reporter with the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which is composed of Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum. Reach her at [email protected].