Community School remodel sees delay

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Sequim Gazette

This summer was a time to regroup and reformat for the Sequim School District.


Its biggest project, a $300,000 remodel of the Sequim Community School's north-side 1979 addition, faces setbacks which tentatively will push the opening back to after Christmas break, rather than the original early September finish time.


John McAndie, maintenance and operations supervisor for the district, said last-minute change orders between contractors and the City of Sequim led to design issues.


The remodel transforms two rooms formerly housing SNAP, now called Mosaic, and the district maintenance storage area into six open-space classrooms for Olympic Peninsula Academy, which started school Sept. 11. Two more classrooms were created in the commons area, which still houses the district's base kitchen that provides food for OPA, Greywolf Elementary and Helen Haller Elementary.


Brian Lewis, business manager for the district, said none of OPA's equipment or furnishings were moved from their original classrooms in the portion of the Community School slated to close, just in case the remodel wasn't finished.

“It was an ambitious schedule and it's unfortunate we didn't meet that,” he said. “Thankfully, we had a backup plan.”


The school faced cooling and heating issues due to its age, and since the addition once housed the home economics and wood shop classes, it should have enough power for heat pumps, McAndie said.


Following the completed remodel, water and heat will be shut off in the rest of the building and rooms with no roof leaks will become storage.


McAndie said the new finish date of Dec. 15 allows staff to move OPA into the new space during the break.


Cost hasn't increased with the changes but McAndie said that could change going into colder months.


“We're still running the boiler and want to get the project completed before the depths of the heating season,” he said. “If we can get out of there by Thanksgiving, all the better.”

Finding the room

The school closure displaced the district’s developmental preschool to Helen Haller and the Sequim Alternative High School to two classrooms above the high school auditorium. Special Services staff are now in the administration building. Other non-district supported programs such as Head Start; Women, Infants and Children; First Teacher; and Peninsula College’s GED and English Language Learners programs are no longer housed in school district facilities.


Lewis said every classroom in the district is being used.


“The space we had, OPA and the Alternative High School absorbed it,” he said.


“Up until we closed the Community School (in June), we had a renter on site every day of the year.”


With the condensed space and the community using school space at high levels, Lewis said it's becoming more difficult for maintenance staff to do regular upkeep such as waxing gymnasium floors.


The district rents its facilities on a per-hour basis for parent, youth and/or teacher groups; youth nonprofit social, civic and recreation groups; nonprofits; and commercial and private-interest or profit-making groups.


Lewis said when staff consider the fee structure when renting space they try at least to cover costs for staff time and items like paper products.


“Students have to take priority,” Lewis said about who can use a space first.


The district evaluates its rates according to the cost of living and whether it increases. So far, Sequim's rental rates have remained the same for three years.


Lewis said there's some wearing down in some places, but it's hard to attribute each case to one group or another.

Open discussion

The facilities committee, which worked to find a solution for the Community School, is introducing new Superintendent Kelly Shea to the district's issues, Lewis said.


For now the closure of the Community School is a priority as the district looks to decommission it to prevent vandalism, possible fires and floods.


A cost estimate to demolish the school and remove an underground fuel tank is about $500,000, Lewis said, which might be on the high end depending on whether the tank is leaking and other factors.


On the horizon, the committee plans to work on a recommendation for either a bond levy paid for by property taxes or a capital projects fund levy that's short-term.


“We'll make a recommendation to the superintendent and then he makes a recommendation to the school board who has to vote to decide if to bring it to voters,” Lewis said.


The need for more classroom space could come from state mandates, too.


“By 2018, the state has said they are going to fund all-day kindergarten,” Lewis said. “If that happens, we'll have to add classrooms. Another reason to add classrooms would be if the district experienced substantial growth.”


This winter, the Sequim School Board will make a decision on whether or not to propose its maintenance and operations levy to voters that supports educational programs and extra teachers in classrooms. The 2012 levy rate is $1.27 per $1,000 of assessed valuation.


Lewis said there are other future issues: connecting Greywolf to a proposed sewer system in Carlsborg and the age of the district's existing schools.


Sequim Middle School was built in 1998 and Sequim High School added H-building and a cafeteria the same year but its A,B,C and D portions were built in 1967-1968 and E-building in 1972. Helen Haller, a 40-year-old building, installed a new heating system in the summer of 2010 and Greywolf Elementary was built in 1991.


McAndie said there are a lot of options to consider if the district needed space.


“More space would be good, but we're tailoring our classrooms to work now,” he said.
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