Advocates of a proposed a multi-million-dollar school skills and training facility to Sequim now have an official business plan to bolster their effort to help local students join the workforce.
Sequim School Board directors on Jan. 9 unanimously approved the draft of a business plan that outlines efforts for a Career and Technical Education (CTE) building.
The district is seeking to raise $1 million in good faith funds from the community, after Senator Lisa Wellman — chair of the Senate Committee on Early Learning and K-12 Education — expressed interest in pursuing construction of a vocational facility in Sequim. Wellman’s visit to the Sequim School District for a vocational forum, tour and meet-and greet in July 2022 spurred the plan for the facility, but the legislator wanted to see $1 million in community support, according to Ned Floeter, director of Sequim School District’s Career and Technical Education (CTE) classes.
Sequim school officials, backed by groups including the Sequim Sunrise Rotary and Clallam Economic Development Council, have in recent weeks been connecting with government agencies and community groups to raise the $1 million for a project that Floeter said could cost about $17.5 million.
“There is a lot of passion behind the idea,” Sequim schools superintendent Regan Nickels said.
The business plan, crafted by district staff and presented by Nickels to board directors on Jan. 9, details not only costs and other details of the proposed facility in an executive summary, but also the potential investment returns and other benefits to the schools, local economy and local workforce.
“Community stakeholders want to see a metric, where the return is… and there’s plenty,” Nickels said. “It’s important to understand that businesses in our county would benefit.”
It’s a plan district officials hope to have in legislators’ hands as they returned to in-person session early last week in Olympia.
“This is a product they are going to have [in hand],” Floeter said.
The plan also comes before the City of Sequim’s city councilors — at their regular meeting at 6 p.m. Monday, Jan. 23 in a hybrid meeting at the Sequim Civic Center and via Zoom — where they’ll host a public hearing, asking the community whether the city should pledge financial support for the facility.
(In November, Floeter detailed the proposed CTE facility to city councilors — along with asking for $250,000 in funds or in-kind services, such as breaks on permitting. On Nov. 28, council members voted 5-1 — with William Armacost opposed and Mayor Tom Ferrell excused from the meeting — to conduct the public hearing.)
With funding in place, Nickels said, the center could open as early as 2025.
The proposed facility/emergency center, which has its initial landing spot on the district’s northeast corner at North Sequim Avenue and West Hendrickson Road, would expand Sequim students’ vocational offerings and could replace some existing infrastructure in poor shape, school district staff said.
Senior student representative Calem Klinger said his classmates will be excited if the project is funded and completed.
“I know our CTE facilities are not what they could be,” he said at the Jan. 9 meeting.
The CTE facility also could double as an emergency shelter for the community, and potentially an after-hours program/campus for Peninsula College.
According to school district staff, the proposed vocational facility 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.
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 has consulted with local business leaders to find what employment needs the local region has now.
“If we didn’t have the open job positions, we might not be able to claim [these benefits to the community],” she said on Jan. 9.
“We are ripe for this opportunity right now.”
Floeter noted, “Those job openings offer living wage opportunities for our graduates right out of high school.”
In addition to the facility, Floeter said he hopes to inspire a new “culture” around career and technical education classes, what were formerly called vocational courses. One example, he said was a woodshop class that was conducted for middle school students, a class that no longer exists. Now, the earliest a student can take a similar course is ninth grade. Starting students in CTE classes earlier in their educational careers, he said, will “give them a [career] pathway that begins earlier.”
Floeter said the district is seeking a $1 million national grant to install solar panels for the CTE building, initially projected to cost $15 million.
Cultivating relationships with local businesses and entities who want to see this facility constructed, he said, will help reduce the overall cost.
“They have vested interest in this process succeeding,” Floeter said.
Board president Eric Pickens said a successful bid for the CTE facility could spur excitement among — and bring back — local students who’ve decided to do homeschooling or non-district virtual instruction.
“They are going to want to be there,” he said.
CTE students, offerings
Sequim School District offers about three-dozen Career and Technical Education courses, primarily at the high school level. Courses include everything from culinary services and woodworking to robotics and computer science, biomedical science, automotive and welding services, animal science and veterinary assistant, computer science, agriculture, video game design and more.
“There’s a lot more [offered] than the old vocational tech programs,” Floeter notes in a YouTube video (youtube.com/watch?v=p8WeZ3X09cE) about the district’s CTE offerings. “This is because we are preparing students every day so that when they receive their graduation certificate they can enter a workforce … that these courses replicate.”
Several high school course programs earn students dual credits at Peninsula College, Olympic College and Yakima Valley College.
About 1,000 Sequim students are enrolled in at least one CTE course, Floeter said in a previous interview.
The district added two CTE programs at Sequim Middle School and recruited more students at Sequim High School, with the result a 44 full-time equivalent increase this year over the 2021-22 school year.
In full-time equivalent terms, Sequim High has 228 CTE students to start the 2022-23 academic year, up from 214 in the fall of 2021-22, while the middle school has 45 FTEs, up from 15 in the fall of 2021-22.
CTE courses receive a higher-than-normal apportionment from the state.
Nickels said she’s heard some concern that other district facilities are in need, but successfully establishing a CTE facility would help focus future capital project funding on those other needs.
“This doesn’t mean the other facility [needs] aren’t just as important; I still want to make those a priority, Pickens said.
“Not getting this does not fix any of those other problems,” school board vice president Patrice Johnston said. “It just means we don’t get this.”
Nickels said anyone can make a donation to the CTE effort; contact the school at 360-582-3260 for more information.