SEQUIM — Olympic Peninsula Academy portables are tentatively set to be ready for staff and students Sept. 6 before the program begins classes Sept. 10, Sequim Schools Superintendent Gary Neal said.
Sept. 6 is the date of an orientation, open house and mandatory meeting for staff, students and parents of the Olympic Peninsula Academy (OPA).
If the portables are not ready to be moved into by the alternative education program’s first day of school, the district is looking into finding a local church to house OPA staff and students as a backup plan, Neal told OPA’s Parent Teacher Organization board, and staff members and parents during a meeting last Wednesday.
One large single classroom portable and five double classroom portables were purchased for OPA by the Sequim School District from Central Kitsap School District on July 14-15.
OPA students and staff are being displaced into the portables while the district continues its capital projects, building a new central kitchen in the west wing of the Sequim Community School while the rest of the building is deconstructed and eventually demolished by mid-December.
“We are pleased with the facility we got and we’ll do the best we can for you,” Neal told the group.
“OPA is going to continue on and spread opportunities for our kids.”
Neal also said the playground on West Fir Street and North Second Avenue where OPA students used to play is closed now but it should be accessible again when the central kitchen is built and the building is no longer being deconstructed, which is set for mid-December or January.
Neal said the district is doing its best to honor the three important “takeaways” OPA PTO board members, staff and parents voiced at the listening sessions in January when several options for the Sequim Community School and central kitchen were considered by district officials and the School Board.
The takeaways are keeping OPA classrooms close together, keeping the classrooms close to Sequim Middle School and Sequim High School and maintaining a usable and adequate working environment for staff and students.
A few of OPA’s portables are located on West Fir Street next to the high school’s band and choir room and the rest of the portables are along West Alder Street and North Second Avenue.
Rebecca Bullard, a first-, second-, third- and fourth-grade teacher for OPA and a parent, expressed her concern about children in younger grades walking from portable classrooms to the bathrooms in the high school’s band and choir room building on West Fir Street, where OPA students are tentatively set to use bathrooms.
“Little kids can’t wait [for the bathroom],” Bullard said.
She and other staff and parents also expressed concern for younger OPA students mixing with possible older high school students.
Bullard’s 11-year-old daughter and OPA student, Georgia, also asked Neal if the teachers would have enough time to set up their classrooms before the program’s first day of school.
Bullard said in an interview that while she waits for the portables all her classroom supplies are sitting in her living room while a definite date is set to move into the portables.
“We have to be patient and wait and see what happens,” Bullard said.
Said Neal: “There are so many variables I don’t have control over, but we’re doing everything we can do get [OPA] in.”
John McAndie, the district’s maintenance and operations supervisor and director of facilities, said the portables are being stitched together and are on their permanent foundations.
He said portables still need electricity hookups, roofing to be finished, pull-in and drop-off parking and regular parking established, and the district also may need to get approval from the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries which could take some time.
Neal said the district is waiting to receive permit approval from the city of Sequim so it can move forward in getting the portables ready for OPA.
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].