Sequim eyes $154 million bond for revitalization of schools

SEQUIM –– Voters in the Sequim School District could be asked as soon as April to approve a $154 million bond issue for a major overhaul of schools and other district facilities.

After a 3½-hour meeting Tuesday night, the district’s directors agreed they want to seek a bond to modernize the high school, build a new elementary school, build a new maintenance building, modernize the athletic complex and remodel existing buildings.

“The time has come,” School Board member Bev Horan said. “And I think our community will support that.”

Directors seemed to favor putting the measure on this April’s ballot but were concerned about the short time frame that would give Citizens for Sequim Schools to prepare a campaign to get support from the community.

“I have April doubts for sure,” board President John Bridge said.

“What I’d like to do: I’d like to talk to the citizens committee.”

Committee talks

Board members decided to consult with the citizen support committee about the time frame, then reconsider an official bond resolution at a special board meeting Feb. 11.

The board’s resolution must be approved by March 7 to make the April 22 ballot.

Sequim’s special citizen committee spent most of 2013 reviewing the adequacy of the district’s facilities. That committee forwarded a $170 million list of projects to the School Board in December.

After several meetings to discuss the list, the board Monday pared down the project total to a tentative $154.32 million.

That list includes a new $87 million high school that would add 172,330 square feet of new building centered around the two newer sections of the high school; a $25.5 million, 65,000-square-foot elementary school to replace Helen Haller Elementary; a $16.5 million renovation of Greywolf Elementary in Carlsborg that would add 17,000 square feet and remodel 43,000 square feet; and an $8 million renovation of the existing Helen Haller school to house Olympic Peninsula Academy, a district resource for home-schooled students, and the alternative high school.

Other projects

Other projects would include a new 3,000-seat stadium and athletic complex for $9.125 million, a $1 million central warehouse for maintenance and supplies, and a $1 million remodel of the bus shop.

The board’s plan reduces the cost of remodeling the existing Helen Haller school and the warehouse and transportation buildings from the facilities committee’s plan.

Superintendent Kelly Shea said both elementary schools are at maximum capacity, with 1,200 elementary students in the district, many attending class in portable outbuildings.

As the district prepares to implement all-day kindergarten classes, that space will be even more cramped.

The board also noted security concerns at Helen Haller and the high school, both of which have open campus designs that make it difficult to control who enters the schools.

“I just want to note that this is not necessarily to accommodate growth,” Shea said. “Really, it’s a replacement solution because our facilities are inadequate.”

Lab facilities

Horan said laboratory facilities in the high school are especially subpar.

“When I see all of this, I see that our students and our staff are doing phenomenal things with poor, poor facilities,” Horan said.

The district’s enrollment has dropped in recent years.

Some growth projections, though, show as many as 300 more students could be in Sequim schools in the next 30 years.

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Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Joe Smillie can be reached at 360-681-2390, ext. 5052, or at jsmillie@peninsuladailynews.com.

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