A new kitchen in sight for school district

Sequim School District has a clearer vision of what its new central kitchen will look like after an option was approved Monday night for the district’s capital projects.

The Sequim School District Board of Directors unanimously approved option three at the Board of Directors meeting on Jan. 22 that renovates the west wing of the Sequim Community School for a new central kitchen and deconstructs the remaining portions of the building.

This plan will cost $5.36 million which is under the district’s $5.75 million budget generated from a capital projects levy voters approved in February of 2017.

It also allows the district to apply for $4.1 million in state matching funds plus an additional $1 million because it allows more square footage to be counted toward matching dollars.

At the Monday meeting, board president Heather Short said from what she gathered from the 12 public forums held over the last several weeks that option three was the most accepted plan among those who attended.

“From what I read through the feedback we received from exit slips and comments, it seemed to me that option three was the most popular,” she said.

“And that’s because not only are we not getting near the amount of money that taxpayers have allocated for (capital projects) but that we are also getting more.”

This option creates a new kitchen that allows for an efficient layout of kitchen equipment for kitchen staff operations and for the possibility of a new school in the future.

The location of the kitchen on site can be optimized for new school construction, it will be 100-percent code-compliant and include all new systems for the lowest long-term maintenance impacts.

It also will shift the loading and unloading operations of trucks that deliver food to other schools in the district to be separated from school operations to optimize student safety.

OPA concerns

While this plan is in the district’s budget and allows for more state matching funds, it will require that Olympic Peninsula Academy (OPA) relocate. The central kitchen will not need to relocate during deconstruction but will remain in its current location until the new kitchen is constructed.

OPA is an alternative learning experience program that consists of 100 students and nine classrooms. One classroom has already been relocated from the community school to a new site in the district over the winter break because of water saturation levels from a leaky inverted roof in the community school that forced the classroom to move.

A few OPA parents spoke up during public comments at the meeting Monday, voicing some of their concerns.

“We would like to be more than just a program,” OPA parent Kaylene Byrne said. “Given all the options impact OPA, our concerns are high regarding displacement and a temporary solution.”

Byrne said many parents could accept option three but no matter what decision the board makes any one of them could impact OPA.

“There’s a lot of unknowables moving forward and that makes it really hard to present any one of these options well,” she said.

She suggested an OPA advisory group be put together to include staff and parents as the Board and the district move forward with its capital project plans.

“We would really like to request some sort of OPA advisory group be put together,” Byrne said.

Jeanette Gish, who has been an OPA parent for one year with a son at the high school level, asked what the long-term plans are for OPA as well as what a permanent solution looks like.

“I would really like to see it continue and I’m concerned it’s on the back burner,” she said.

She asked why the district is choosing to build a new kitchen first instead of a new school.

“I would think rebuild the school first and then accommodate a fancy kitchen,” she said. “And I think OPA should be considered on that level.”

Board, district input

Neal said he spoke with OPA parents Monday afternoon and confirmed the district is trying to find a temporary and a permanent solution for OPA.

Board Director at large, Brandino Gibson, also acknowledged that no matter what decision the board made OPA would be impacted by these plans.

“It’s been the hardest part of our discussion with this whole process,” he said. “It’s been a top priority for us knowing that impact is there.”

He said while all of these plans impact OPA, the board and the district want to keep all nine OPA classes together by relocating them all to one location in the future.

“Looking at the other options, option two does leave some space (for OPA classes) but not enough space,” Gibson said.

“And therefore, we will have to be splitting up OPA and that is not a good idea.”

Neal said the intention was that OPA was going to stay for the remainder of the year so those services would not be interrupted, but with the water saturation levels accruing in the community school the district would most likely have to move OPA despite the options presented with capital projects.

“With (the community school and commons area) falling apart and the saturation taking place, we would have to come up with a plan for OPA,” he said. “Regardless this is going to be an issue.”

Short said to her knowledge OPA could tentatively move to a new location by the start of the next school year but classes could move sooner if more water saturation occurs in the building.

She said Neal has been in contact with community leaders such as the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe, the City of Sequim and realtors to find a viable option for OPA at this point. Option three does provide funding to relocate OPA but as to where has not been decided yet.

Short said the board and the district plan to be in communication with OPA parents and staff and believes the idea of an OPA parent advisory group is a good one.

“None of us (the board) felt comfortable making a decision of this magnitude that affects so many students and taxpayer dollars without community input,” she said.

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