PORT ANGELES — Port Angeles School District is preparing to ask voters to consider a levy that would fund major renovations and a new building at Stevens Middle School, freeing up space at each of the elementary schools.
The proposed levy, which would be on the Feb. 13 ballot, would allow the school district to add 14 classrooms, a new music room and a new shop, said Superintendent Marc Jackson.
“We didn’t want to just focus on one school. We wanted to focus across the district and look at district needs,” Jackson said. “We focused on Stevens because we knew we were going to have to open up our elementary schools and reduce class sizes.”
Jackson said the district decided on the levy after voters rejected in 2015 a 25-year, $98.25 million bond that would have funded the replacement of Port Angeles High School.
The levy would cost property owners $2.47 per $1,000 valuation and would be projected to raise $46.7 million over six years. That would cost the owner of a $200,000 home $494 annually.
With the extra classrooms, the district would then move sixth-grade students back to Stevens Middle School and free up a handful of classrooms in each of the district’s five elementary schools.
Currently about 550 seventh-grade and eighth-grade students attend Stevens. With the improvements, capacity would be expanded to 900 and make room for about 300 sixth-grade students who would move to Stevens.
Officials are considering using cross-laminated timber in the project, a building material that is increasingly being used.
The Port Angeles School Board is expected to have a first reading of a resolution placing the levy on the ballot during its Nov. 29 meeting and a second reading on Dec. 7, said Assistant Superintendent Chuck Lisk.
The board would have to approve the resolution by Dec. 15 to place the levy on the February ballot.
The $46.7 million would be matched with nearly $15 million in state funding assistance, $5.6 million of which is tied to the demolition of Monroe Elementary School.
The state’s School Construction Assistance Program provides funding for new buildings and renovations based on unused space in the district and the cost of the proposed project.
Once the board accepts that the demolition of Monroe is mostly finished, the district will be eligible for the funds for only five years, Jackson said.
“There is a timeliness to this,” he said.
That state funding is key to many of the improvements planned for the middle school. Remodels on the existing building are projected to cost $28 million.
They include improvements to plumbing, heating, ventilation and air conditioning, lab remodels, electrical work, seismic improvements and remodeled lockers.
Among the important improvements would be the addition of fire sprinklers, something the building currently lacks, said Nolan Duce, maintenance and facilities director.
“This is big, we’re not just adding new paint,” he said. “We’re doing much-needed safety improvement to make it better for the kids.”
The levy is the first phase in the district’s long-term plans for improving schools across the district. Nolan said the district has identified about $325 million in projects over the coming years, but the district will tackle them one at a time.
The next phase would include building a new Franklin Elementary School. It was built in 1954 and additions were added in 1956, 1958 and 1978.
The district would ask for another levy in 2024 to replace Franklin, Jackson said.
“If the board has liked what they saw, we could go for another capital levy,” he said.
He said he would be “going out on a limb” to guess how much the levy would cost taxpayers because of how far out it is.
The School Board decided earlier this month to not sell Fairview Elementary School so that the district would benefit from the state School Construction Assistance Program. It was estimated the district is eligible for $4 million in funding that would help fund replacing Franklin.
The district’s plan also includes a third phase in 2030, where the board would consider a bond or levy to replace Hamilton Elementary School and/or Port Angeles High School.
School District officials have planned several presentations about the proposed levy:
• Port Angeles Regional Camber of Commerce Luncheon, Red Lion Hotel, 221 N. Lincoln St.; 11:30 a.m. Dec. 13.
• Port of Port Angeles, 202 N. Cedar St.; 9 a.m. Dec. 19.
• Olympic Medical Center board, 939 Caroline St.; 6 p.m. Dec. 20.
Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at [email protected].