What advocates called a “win-win-win” proposal to build an approximate $17.5-million Career and Technical Education (CTE) building at Sequim High School, got the backing of Sequim City Council on Jan. 23.
City councilors unanimously agreed to pledge $250,000 to Sequim School District for construction of the CTE facility.
Details of the pledge — paid for through cash, in-kind, multi-year payments, and/or some combination of various options — will be determined later, if the school district secures the building’s full funding.
School leaders and advocates are seeking $1 million in pledges from community groups and members following a visit last summer from Senator Lisa Wellman, chair of the Senate Committee on Early Learning and K-12 Education. She recognized the need for a CTE facility in Sequim, but wanted to see $1 million in community support in conjunction with legislative funding for the remainder of the project.
Sequim schools superintendent Regan Nickels said in an interview after the city council’s decision that she feels a deep appreciation for the community and council’s support.
“I feel over the moon for our students because we’re so much closer now to them having these new opportunities,” she said.
“I think the community gets something from it too. When all of this comes to life, it’s a win-win-win.”
About 100 people showed up to show their support for the CTE project at the Sequim Civic Center on Jan. 23, and many were wearing “CTE” name tags provided by Kaye Richardson, president of the Sequim Sunrise Rotary.
She said in an interview advocates continue to approach local, bigger businesses and groups to help add to the $1 million goal, and they plan to speak with Clallam County commissioner Mark Ozias about the county potentially matching the city’s donation.
The project has received financial and/or advocacy support from many agencies/groups such as the Albert Haller Foundation, Clallam Economic Development Council, Habitat for Humanity of Clallam County, and the Sequim Association of Realtors.
During the council meeting, more than 20 advocates — students, educators, parents and community members — spoke in favor of the project, including small business owners who shared how they’ve struggled to find qualified applicants in recent years.
Lex Morgan with Cornerstone Builders said in the past 20 years it’s gotten more difficult to hire qualified candidates. He said he feels there’s an emphasis in schools focused almost exclusively on obtaining a four-year degree that has negatively affected the construction trade’s job market.
“I cannot see any downside (to the CTE building) … It’s a win-win-win proposition,” he said. “That’s why I wholeheartedly support it.”
Richard Parks, co-owner of RE/MAX Prime in Sequim, said he’s been supporting the CTE building proposal since its inception. parks said he’s heard stories through the years from real estate brokers showing homes to young professionals who were concerned about the state of Sequim schools, and that a CTE facility would give young professionals a reason to stay and contribute to Sequim.
Laila Sundin, a Sequim High School freshman, said the CTE building is imperative to the high school’s future. She said her job over the next three years is to make Sequim’s high school the best place it can be for her sister, now a sixth-grader, and other students.
Sundin said the current CTE building has a leaky roof, its ovens are not safe, and equipment is hooked up to an electrical system it’s not meant for.
City councilors first were presented information about the facility on Nov. 14 from Ned Floeter, director of Sequim School District’s Career and Technical Education (CTE), where he mentioned the $250,000 pledge.
Councilors were uncertain on how much to pledge as they discussed different funding options and who else is supporting the effort.
On Nov. 28, council members voted to conduct the public hearing for more input.
City councilor Kathy Downer said at the council’s Jan. 9 meeting she felt $250,000 was too much of an ask, but changed her mind and voted for the full pledge at the Jan. 23 meeting.
Councilor Vicki Lowe said the building helps create a local workforce rather than poaching from other places and that it’s “a really good opportunity to act together as a community.”
Mayor Tom Ferrell said he supports the concept as a “no brainer,” but that he wasn’t sure about the full $250,000 pledge.
“We have a very well run city here,” he said. “Our budget is very sharp. The citizens of the city should be very proud of that.”
Ferrell added that the people in attendance in favor were a fraction of the people they represent and that the $250,000 pledge must come from somewhere within the city’s budget at some point.
“As the council considers this, those are things on our mind too,” he said.
In an interview, Nickels said she wanted taxpayers to know, “there are processes for how we would go and search in support of a (facility’s funding).”
“When you have an opportunity like this, you have to seize the day and we’re being responsible to do that,” she said.
“The timeline is tight. I think we have had quick community organizing to get to this place.”
About the facility
When funding is secured, Nickels said on Jan. 9 the center could open as early as 2025 likely at the district’s property on the northeast corner of North Sequim Avenue and West Hendrickson Road. She told city councilors on Jan. 23 they hope to have a clearer picture of state funding as the legislative session ends in April.
The CTE building would be 100 feet by 200 feet, with three “open bays” of 40 feet by 100 feet, along with two fully resourced classrooms, restrooms and showers, and a full, restaurant-grade kitchen.
The building could double as an emergency shelter for the community, and potentially as an after-hours program/campus for Peninsula College, district staff said.
About 1,000 Sequim students are enrolled in at least one Career and Technical Education course, Floeter said in a previous interview, with the school district offering more than 30 CTE courses, including biomedical science, automotive and welding services, computer science, agriculture and more.
Floeter said district staff have with the facility targeted five-six career “clusters” — primarily, manufacturing, light and heavy manufacturing, health care and hospitality — that “within our region provides most economic impact; the greatest need [for employers] and provide living wages for graduates.”
Nickels said staff consulted with local business leaders to learn what employment needs the area has now.
Sequim School board members unanimously approved a business plan on Jan. 9 that details costs, potential investment returns and benefits to the schools and local economy.
Nickels said anyone can make a donation to the CTE effort; contact the school district at 360-582-3260 for more information.
Editor’s note: Reporter Matthew Nash has family members employed by and enrolled in Sequim School District.