SEQUIM — An effort to bring a multi-million-dollar vocational building to Sequim has stalled, but advocates of the proposed Center of Excellence say some significant pieces of the foundation have been laid.
Ned Floeter, director of Sequim School District’s Career and Technical Education (CTE) program, said that the community rallied behind efforts to fulfill the vision of several community groups and state Sen. Lisa Wellman as they work for an approximate $15 million to 17.5-million CTE facility — called at Center of Excellence — at Sequim High School, but the funding did not come through in the 2023 Legislative session in Olympia.
“I thought this was a narrow window we could scoot through,” Floeter said last week, as local entities pledged or donated nearly $1 million in funds or in-kind services toward the proposal.
School leaders and advocates sought local funds or services following a visit last summer from Wellman, chair of the Senate Committee on Early Learning and K-12 Education. She recognized the need for a CTE facility in Sequim, project backers noted, but wanted to see $1 million in community support in conjunction with legislative funding for the remainder of the project.
Within a few months, and helped in large part by the Clallam County Economic Development Council and Sequim’s two Rotary organizations, the effort got $250,000 in backing from both City of Sequim and Clallam County.
Other contributors included the Albert Haller Foundation, Clallam Economic Development Council, Habitat for Humanity of Clallam County and the Sequim Association of Realtors.
Floeter in particular credited Sequim schools Superintendent Regan Nickels with leading the charge for the facility’s funding.
“We were a little naive about the legislative process. [But] it was an incredible effort. There are very few things that unify a community. This is one of them that does.”
Floeter said recently he has been busy notifying constituents who had provided support and returning donations if applicable. And he’ll meet with Sequim City Council members to give them an update on the proposal at their June 12 meeting.
And while the center didn’t receive funding this session, Floeter said he’s working with local and regional lawmakers to help school districts like Sequim have a chance to construct the kind of vocational center that would have a positive impact for the schools and community.
Current state legislation allows for schools to be granted construction funds if they are large (10,000 students or more) or relatively small (1,000 students or less) — which leaves a district like Sequim, with its approximate 2,500 students, needing to pass a local bond.
“We don’t qualify for either of those,” Floeter said. “We’re not big enough and we’re too big.
“We’re going to work that legislative process this year in the meantime.”
Floeter said he’s working with legislators to get that policy language amended in the next legislative cycle, so that schools like Sequim could apply for small school construction grants.
While a Center of Excellence is what the project has been called, Floeter said, “it has less to do with a building and more to do with a mindset.
“The building will make it better, but there’s a lot that goes into excellence.”
About the facility
Initial plans have the CTE facility located on school district property at the northeast corner of North Sequim Avenue and West Hendrickson Road. The building would be 100 feet by 200 feet, with three “open bays” of 40 feet by 100 feet, along with two fully resourced classrooms, restrooms and showers, and a full, restaurant-grade kitchen.
The building could double as an emergency shelter for the community, and potentially as an after-hours program/campus for Peninsula College, school district staff said.
Michael Dashiell is the editor of the Sequim Gazette of the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which also is composed of other Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News and Forks Forum. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Matthew Nash is a reporter with the Olympic Peninsula News Group. Reach him at email@example.com.