Strike creates one-week delay for new elementary school in Port Townsend

PORT TOWNSEND — The 480 students anticipating the first day of classes at the new Salish Coast Elementary School will have to wait until Sept. 11, one week later than students in the rest of Port Townsend School District because of an ongoing labor dispute.

Blue Heron Middle School, OCEAN and Port Townsend High School will resume classes as scheduled Sept. 4.

District personnel will conduct an informational meeting for Salish Coast Elementary families at 6 p.m. Thursday at the auditorium at the high school at 1500 Van Ness St., to answer questions about the process.

Superintendent John Polm said Tuesday’s decision to delay the nearly completed school was necessary given the outside paving and earth work that has left piles of dirt, open holes, no sidewalks and no emergency access lanes.

“Although we are disappointed with the delay, we believe it is prudent to build in time for necessary work and for our staff to prepare classrooms,” Polm said.

“The decision we made today was to help parents prepare for child care,” he continued. “We could have played a waiting game and made an announcement later in the week, but we decided the 11th was prudent and wanted to get out the announcement now.

“We’re working closely with city to satisfy the conditions they requested regarding safety and ADA access. We didn’t want to make that too quickly. We will make sure the school will be safe. I would feel confident having my own children attend.”

Polm admitted that school site will continue to be a construction zone on Sept. 11 and afterward.

Project manager Kirk Robinson of the Robinson Company said the school is basically completed, with the exception of exterior site work.

“Safety is our highest priority,” Robinson said. “We have to take some temporary measures, but we’ll be able to fulfill safety requirements.

“We’re working with the city of Port Townsend to create safe walking paths that they and we will find acceptable,” he said.

“We’ll fence off temporary paths and gravel them so kids, parents, and staff can get in and out of the building. We’re also working with the fire department to work out a temporary road for emergency vehicles. “

In spite of the situation, teachers are moving in, furniture is arriving and classrooms are being set up.

Robinson suggested that the community not judge the Salish Coast book by its cover.

“We have a great school. The project has come together at the end, and it’s just taking some more coordination,” he said.

”The school is very user friendly, and it’s on a residential scale. It’s a marked difference from what they came from to what they are going to. Salish Coast is state-of-the-art, built specifically for the site, the residential community and the city.”

“The interior of the school is done,” Robinson said. “We just have the last bits of testing and then sign-offs to complete.”

The strike by members of Local 302 of the International Union of Operating Engineers in Western Washington began Aug. 21.

Workers concerns center around wages, hours and working conditions. There is no information as to a timeline for a resolution of the work stoppage.

Salish Coast Elementary families can get updates through the SchoolMessenger automated calling and email system. Any Salish Coast Elementary family needing to update contact information with the school can email Salish Coast Elementary secretary LaTrecia Arthur at

The planned Salish Coast Elementary community event scheduled for Sept. 14 will be rescheduled.

Updates will be posted on both the Salish Coast website: and Port Townsend Schools website at as well as the Salish Coast Facebook page.


Jefferson County Editor/Reporter Jeannie McMacken can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at

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