QUILCENE — Quilcene School District officials are conducting outreach meetings as they consider placing a replacement levy on the February docket and following that in about three years with an $11.5 million bond to replace the aging elementary school.
The two-year levy would replace the current Educational Programs and Operations levy at the same value as it is now, thus keeping taxes as they are now.
It would fund planning for the new school, move the bus barn to across Rose Street and move the student drop-off to the present location of the bus barn so students no longer have to cross the street.
“Nothing is set in stone yet,” Superintendent Frank Redmon said Wednesday. “That’s why we’re having these community meetings.”
Redmon told a group of 18 at a community outreach meeting Monday that the district needs to replace its elementary school because a recent study shows it is structurally unsound.
The meeting was the third of six outreach meetings to outline potential impacts of the new school and to gain input from members of the public about what they want to see in the building. A fourth meeting was conducted Tuesday.
The final two meetings on this issue will be today at the Presbyterian Church at 294433 U.S. Highway 101 and Wednesday, Sept. 25, at the Quilcene Masonic Lodge at 170 Herbert St. Both meetings will run from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.
The proposed building would house both the elementary students and middle school students. It would contain 16 classrooms, a possible makers space, workout facilities and possible workshops.
The current plan is to attempt a capital levy in February to start improvements for the district. The levy would be $1.50 per $1,000 assessed property tax valuation.
The proposed bond would appear on the 2022 ballot at the earliest.
The cost of the bond for taxpayers was calculated separately from the preliminary estimate given by an architect, Redmon said.
Redmon and his team took the average cost of a house in Quilcene (reportedly $273,000) and calculated the maximum tax increase they felt that residents could afford (roughly $500 per year) and then multiplied that by 30 years (the length of the proposed bond) and reached $11.5 million, which is roughly the same number quoted to the district as an estimate by the architect, Redmon said.
Each household on average is paying $850 per year in school taxes.
The proposed bond would place an additional $2.07 per $1,000 of assessed value over the 30 years, but the district’s goal would be to pay it off before the end of the 30 years through the taxes and different grant funding, Redmon said.
The current middle school would be converted to an administration building, and the high school would receive updates as well.
The issues with the elementary school were revealed as part of a study and survey begun in 2018 and still under way. The study is conducted every six years.
It has revealed several deficiencies within the building. It isn’t seismically sound and has a poor electrical system and insulation, among other issues, Redmon said.
It was determined that the cost of renovating the building would be close to the same as building a new a one, Redmon said.
A large security issue that Redmon discussed was the large windows on the elementary school.
“If someone wanted to get in through the window, it wouldn’t be that hard to do so,” Redmon said.
The current elementary school was built in 1946 and was later updated in the 1980s. It currently has eight classrooms, but Redmon said resources are thin and that teachers are constantly making concessions to keep students focused, such as adjusting to temperature fluctuations due to poor insulation.
“Teachers and staff work to give students the best experience possible,” Redmon said. “And they do a really good job.”
The building now housing the middle school is not in immediate need of replacement, but it will be in the next 10 to 20 years, said Redmon, who expects student population growth.
“I think it be a mistake to ask for a 30-year project and then go, oops, we’re going to run out of room in 10 years,” Redmon said.
The current elementary school is marred by cracks due to a 6.5 magnitude earthquake in 1965 and the frequent smaller earthquakes the area has since then, Redmon said.
“This [building] has been shaking for a long time,” Redmon said.
The seismic report the district received showed that the building was not bolted to the foundation and the large amount of windows posses significant risk as well, Redmon said.
The current high school is older than both the elementary and middle school, being built in 1938, however it was built differently and is in good condition and will need only minor code updates, Redmon said.
“It’s a solid block of concrete,” Redmon said. “It’s not going anywhere.”
Jefferson County reporter Zach Jablonski can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 5, or at [email protected].