Port Angeles School Board selects Stevens Middle School contractor

Lower district enrollment means loss of state funds

PORT ANGELES — The Port Angeles School District unanimously approved FORMA Construction in Olympia as the contractor for the Stevens Middle School modernization project.

The $499,200 contract is for 13 months of pre-construction work that is scheduled to start Monday, said project director Craig Fulton of Vanir, the company managing the project for the district.

FORMA will work with architectural firm Integra on design development and construction design. During that time, there will be three meetings with an advisory committee made of up community members working with district on its capital projects.

The board at its Dec. 14 meeting approved an alternative general contractor/construction manager (GC/CM) delivery model over a traditional design-build project delivery because it offered more flexibility to adjust the design to meet its budget.

“The guaranteed negotiated price will not be negotiated until we get near the end of design,” Fulton said. “That being said, throughout the design process there will be updates so by the end of design we are fairly certain of how much it will cost. There will be no surprises.”

Nolan Duce, the district’s director of maintenance and facilities, said collaborative nature of CC/CM that involved the early engagement of a contractor would help reduce project’s cost and delivery time.

“This gives us the opportunity to get ahead and to do some work early,” Duce said. “The faster we can get to the work and the earlier we can start, the less price increase that we’re going to have.”

In 2023, the school district estimated the cost of construction of the new school to be $70.9 million; $52,655,650 will come from the capital projects levy approved by voters in 2020 and $18.4 million in state School Construction Assistance Program (SCAP) funding.

Construction is planned to begin in 2025, when all of the levy funds have been collected, with a new Stevens Middle School scheduled to open in 2028.

In other news Thursday, school district enrollment in March was slightly up from February but still below the 3,365 students the district established for budgeting purposes last year, said Kira Acker, director of business and operations, in her report to the board.

“We were up seven from February with 3,323 FTEs (full-time-equivalency students),” Acker said. “We definitely want to continue to see those FTEs increase, but that’s still 41 down from budget, which is at 3,365.”

In a letter emailed to families Friday, the school district said that being under the projected enrollment means a $620,000 loss to its budget.

Acker said students who have withdrawn from the school district since September have transferred of state (41), followed by those who are homeschooled (30), enrolled in private school (15) or have dropped out. New students into the district have come from out of state (80), followed by those who came from other schools on the North Olympic Peninsula (80). Of the latter, most transferred from the Sequim School District (44) followed by the Crescent School District (13) .

Board member Sandy Long asked if any Sequim students who transferred to Port Angeles qualified for special education.

Superintendent Marty Brewer said non-resident transfers are not allowed.

“If a family wants to remain in Sequim and wants a school choice to Port Angeles and they have a special ed student, we deny that school choice because we are already over the funded level with the state,” Brewer said. “If they live in Sequim and they move to Port Angeles, we service them.”

In the school district budget report, Acker projected a year-end fund balance of $4 million.

“That’s about our 7 percent fund balance, which is our minimum board policy that has been set,” she said. “It requires that we have a 7 percent ending fund balance based on expenditures.”

Because state apportionment was not distributed to districts in 12 equal payments but varied from month to month, the board wanted to ensure it had enough funds to pay its bills, president Sarah Methner said.

“We set that 7 percent fund balance so that if the state, which they have done, decides not to give us our apportionment, we can at least pay people for one month until the state gets its act together,” Methner said.

The Port Angeles Paraeducational Association has been bargaining since last summer for a 3.7 percent wage increase the district has said it is unable to fund. The paraeducators have said the 7 percent ending fund balance is higher than necessary and an example of how the district made choices that did not support its workers.

Before the board meeting began, more than 100 people gathered at the school district’s Lincoln Center administrative headquarters in support of the paraeducators. Waving signs and chanting, they continued their rally while the meeting took place. Seven people spoke in support of the paraducators’ demands during public comment.

In other news, Lincoln High School seniors Skye Runion and Damon Woodward were recognized as the district’s students of the month. Principal Mace Gratz described Runion and Woodward, neither of whom were able to attend the meeting, as “motivated, responsible and kind.”

Brewer said 48 community members participated in a March 20 tour of the CTE classes at Port Angeles High School. Brewer said additional trips will be conducted this fall and next spring.

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Reporter Paula Hunt can be reached at paula.hunt@peninsuladailynews.com.​

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