Sequim Community School options remain open

Sequim Gazette

Answers remain in development for finding spots for displaced programs meeting inside the Sequim Community School.


About 50 community members and school officials gathered inside the school’s commons on Nov. 30 to discuss plans for district programs and possible solutions for non-mandated educational programs in the school.


A facilities committee recommendation has most of the school closing except for proposed renovations to the commons and the 1979 addition. No action has been taken yet.


Superintendent Bill Bentley told the audience the school might look fine but, “Everything we see is not what we know about the building.”


The committee recently recommended closing the school built in 1950. This would save the district about $75,000 a year, Bentley said.


In discussion groups, people asked questions about rejected options for program space and what solution the district is seeking.


Tim Wilkinson, a teacher at Olympic Peninsula Academy, a district-funded program, said they have more than 80 students in eight classrooms throughout the week in the school with less-than-ideal conditions.


“It’s not uncommon for classrooms to be 40 degrees in the morning and 85 degrees in the afternoon,” he said.


His projector has fallen off the wall more than once due to drywall issues, too.

No easy fixes

The facilities committee’s plan proposes $150,000 of renovations in the commons space and the 1979 addition where Snap programs and the district’s maintenance workshop are.


School board member Virginia O’Neil told her group that the school has been falling apart a long time and students have to come to class some days with gloves on.


“This isn’t a band-aid,” she said. “It’s a phased project for a building that’s falling apart.”


School board member John Bridge said they held the meeting to receive as much input as possible and see if there are any other options.


The school board tentatively makes a decision about the school’s future on Jan. 17, but there are two meetings for public comment before then, on Dec. 19 and Jan. 3.


“There’s still time to talk,” Bridge said.


Programs like Head Start, Women, Infants and Children (WIC), Snap, First Teacher, Peninsula College’s GED and English Language Learners programs might become homeless if the board decides to close and/or use those spaces in the school.


Bonne Smith, a Snap instructor, said they’ve moved forward knowing there isn’t space for the program in the district.


“It made our board take a good comprehensive look at needs and uses,” Smith said. “They are trying to creatively find something that’ll work as quickly as possible.”


Anna Wilson, board president of Snap, said they are making progress with Paratransit to extend their hours later in the day to accommodate students.


Dr. Cynthia Martin, founder of First Teacher, said at the meeting she felt there was a lot of empathy toward the program, particularly with the loss of First Teacher’s playground.


She plans to let the search for a new space go for a while.


“I empathize with the phenomenal problem the district must deal with,” Martin said.


She’s going to check on a few options, but is not hopeful they’ll find a space near a playground again.


Evelyn Short, dean of basic skills for Peninsula College, said her students use the school for one classroom for 36 hours Monday-Thursday each week. Nearly 60 students take courses in one GED class and two ESL classes.


She said they are waiting to find a new space: Budget discussions must happen with the Legislature first because more budget cuts could come to community colleges.


“I don’t have the go-ahead if we would rent or what we do,” Short said. “We’re just watching the Legislature and waiting.”


Contact the Sequim School District, 503 N. Sequim Ave., at 582-3260.


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