The Sequim School District board of directors met in public session on Aug. 19 to discuss numerous issues, including the Fir Street construction project that looks to continue throughout the school year.
Sequim city engineer Matt Klontz told board directors Monday that construction will be ongoing in front of Helen Haller Elementary School after the start of the school year.
“We’ve finished the parking lot in front of the school,” Klontz said, “and the underground utility work is almost done. We’re going to have that wrapped up so that in September or October we can put in new sidewalks in front of the school and put down temporary asphalt to smooth out the road.”
Klontz said he would personally recommend that while Third and Fourth Avenue will both be open to access Helen Haller, parents might want to consider using Alder Street to park and walk down to the school to pick up their children in the short term.
“Fir Street is going to be an awfully bumpy ride unless you have a good 4×4 to drive,” he said.
Klontz also said that while Second Avenue is closed for most traffic, parents picking up their children from Olympic Peninsula Academy by the annex building also used by the Sequim High School band and choir will still be allowed through to do so.
“It’s going to be business as usual for those families,” he said.
Superintendent Rob Clark indicated that the school district is “working quickly” on a plan to give to parents about how to handle the construction. He said he expects that plan to be complete and available by Aug. 28.
Board director Jim Stoffer requested an opportunity for the district to have a “dry run” of getting their busses in and out of the bus lot by Helen Haller, a suggestion that Clark agreed with and said he will help organize. Klontz added that he would also like to have a meeting with district staff that help direct traffic after school to help coordinate how to work around construction.
Klontz also addressed complaints about the trees that had long lined that stretch of Fir Street being removed.
“Unfortunately, things have to look worse before they get better in projects like this,” he said.
“But once all the construction is done, we are going back in to plant several varieties of new trees and bushes to help replace what was lost.”
Klontz noted that as part of the utility work being done, the irrigation system that had long leaked by the high school has been repaired, and that the stormwater issue that frequently created a lake by the annex building has been repaired.
“We’re going to have a lot less of these issues around here,” Klontz said. “Hopefully, none.”
The board also briefly discussed the vacancy left by the resignation of Robin Henrikson prior to the last board meeting. Clark noted that the district has received their first application for filling the vacancy until the General Election in November, and that former board member Virginia O’Neill had expressed an interest in filling the vacancy as well.
The district is accepting applications for the vacancy until Sept. 5.
Applicants must be from school board district #1, a map of which can be found online, and the board has expressed a preference for individuals who have previously held public office, especially those who have served on a school board in the past, though all are welcome to apply.
Applications may be dropped off at the district office, 503 N. Sequim Ave.
• New Sequim Middle School principal Mark Harris was in attendance and was introduced to the members of the public present. “I’m definitely eager to get to work and run this school,” he said after the meeting.
• Board president Brian Kuh addressed a recent spate of divisive public comments aimed at specific district staff. He suggested a potential future change to public comment policy that would have comments aimed at staff other than board members or the superintendent be submitted in writing instead of being said in meetings. “We need to avoid inappropriate comments, and we haven’t done the best job of that,” Kuh said. Clark agreed with the suggestion, adding that even with comments that don’t name the staff, it’s “nearly impossible” not to figure out who is being talked about in a town the size of Sequim.
• The board had their first reading of an update to a policy regarding staff safety, though after Sequim High School math teacher Carol Harms expressed concern over the policy’s restrictive nature regarding classroom access, which Clark noted had also been expressed by district administrators in an earlier meeting, the policy is going back for further revision. “We definitely need to tighten up this policy,” Clark said, “but this first draft is too tight.”
• The board also saw a new version of the policy they first saw previously regarding appropriate communication between staff and students, and they seemed satisfied with the changes made after concerns expressed at the last board meeting. The new version allows for non-educational contact for issues like babysitting employment or athletic team updates, provided that a supervisor is copied on any emails or text messages exchanged. Clark indicated after the meeting that in “most circumstances” the school’s principal would be the one sent those messages. “The main thing is to make sure that we don’t have staff talking to just one student about whatever,” Clark added.
• The school board appointed Lorene Wilson of Seattle law firm Porter, Foster & Rorick to be their chief negotiator for collective bargaining for the next two years. The district has contract negotiations upcoming with their custodial teamsters, the paraeducators and staff represented by UFCW 21.