SEQUIM — What advocates called a “win-win-win” proposal to build an approximately $17.5 million Career and Technical Education (CTE) building at Sequim High School has snagged the backing of the Sequim City Council.
City council members unanimously agreed last Monday to pledge $250,000 to Sequim School District for construction of the CTE facility.
Details of the pledge — paid for through cash, in-kind, multi-year payments, and/or some combination of various options — will be determined later, if the school district secures the building’s full funding.
School leaders and advocates are seeking $1 million in pledges from community groups and members following a visit last summer from state Sen. Lisa Wellman, chair of the Senate Committee on Early Learning and K-12 Education. She recognized the need for a CTE facility in Sequim but wanted to see $1 million in community support in conjunction with legislative funding for the remainder of the project.
“I feel over the moon for our students because we’re so much closer now to them having these new opportunities,” said Sequim schools Superintendent Regan Nickels.
“I think the community gets something from it too. When all of this comes to life. It’s a win-win-win.”
About 100 people showed up last Monday in support of the CTE project. Many were wearing “CTE” name tags provided by Kaye Richardson, president of the Sequim Sunrise Rotary.
Richardson said later that advocates continue to approach local, bigger businesses and groups to help add to the $1 million goal, and they plan to speak with Clallam County Commissioner Mark Ozias about the county potentially matching the city’s donation.
The project has received financial and/or advocacy support from many agencies and groups such as the Albert Haller Foundation, Clallam Economic Development Council, Habitat for Humanity of Clallam County and the Sequim Association of Realtors.
During the council meeting, more than 20 advocates — students, educators, parents and community members — spoke in favor of the project.
Lex Morgan with Cornerstone Builders said over the past 20 years it’s grown more difficult to hire qualified candidates. Schools focused almost exclusively on obtaining a four-year degree have negatively affected the construction trade’s job market, he said.
“I cannot see any downside (to the CTE building) … It’s a win-win-win proposition,” he said.
Richard Parks, co-owner of RE/MAX Prime in Sequim, said he’s supported the CTE building proposal since its inception. Parks said he’s heard stories through the years from real estate brokers showing homes to young professionals who were concerned about the state of Sequim schools.
A CTE facility would give young professionals a reason to stay and contribute to Sequim, Parks said.
Laila Sundin, a Sequim High School freshman, said the CTE building is imperative for the high school’s future. She feels her job over the next three years is to make Sequim’s high school the best it can be for her sister, now a sixth-grader, and other students.
Sundin said the current CTE building has a leaky roof and its ovens are not safe, and equipment is hooked up to an electrical system it’s not meant for.
Initially in favor of the general idea but unsure about the pledge amount, council members ended in voting for the entire request.
As council member Vicki Lowe said, it’s “a really good opportunity to act together as a community.”
“When you have an opportunity like this, you have to seize the day, and we’re being responsible to do that,” Nickels said later.
“The timeline is tight. I think we have had quick community organizing to get to this place.”
When funding is secured, the center could open as early as 2025, likely on the district’s property on the northeast corner of North Sequim Avenue and West Hendrickson Road, Nickles has said.
The CTE building would be 100 feet by 200 feet, with three open bays of 40 feet by 100 feet, along with two resourced classrooms, restrooms and showers, and a restaurant-grade kitchen.
The building could double as an emergency shelter for the community, and potentially as an after-hours program or campus for Peninsula College, district staff has said.
About 1,000 Sequim students are enrolled in at least one Career and Technical Education course, according to Ned Floeter, director of Sequim School District’s Career and Technical Education (CTE). The district offers more than 30 CTE courses in topics such as biomedical science, automotive and welding services, computer science and agriculture.
Floeter said district staff members have targeted career “clusters” such as light and heavy manufacturing, health care and hospitality that “within our region provide the most economic impact; the greatest need [for employers] and provide living wages for graduates.”
Sequim school board members unanimously approved a business plan on Jan. 9 that details costs, potential investment returns and benefits to the schools and local economy.
To make a donation to the CTE effort or for more information, contact the school district at 360-582-3260.
Matthew Nash 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 him at firstname.lastname@example.org. He has family members employed by and enrolled in Sequim School District.