Chimacum consolidates schools

Posted 1/30/19

With the Chimacum School District facing declining enrollment and some facilities in need of serious overhauls, the school board has opted to consolidate into the most serviceable buildings to save on costs, and mothball the rest, until enrollment increases.

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Chimacum consolidates schools

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With the Chimacum School District facing declining enrollment and some facilities in need of serious overhauls, the school board has opted to consolidate into the most serviceable buildings to save on costs, and mothball the rest, until enrollment increases.

The Chimacum School District will be reduced from five to four schools, counting the PI Program, this fall.

Chimacum Creek Primary will remain at its current location and will continue to serve grades K-2 but will have a new principal following the Dec. 21 resignation of Katie Enlow, the previous principal.

Parents who attended the Jan. 16 school board meeting objected to Enlow’s resignation, which they described as “forced,” but members of the school board did not confirm or deny Enlow was asked to resign, saying instead they could not discuss personnel matters with the public.

Chimacum Elementary will remain on the main campus and will retain Jason Lynch as its principal but will add sixth grade to its existing 3-5 and will move into the building that currently houses Chimacum Middle School, constructed in 1999.

“The building they’re moving into has new carpets, new paint, new power technology and interior hallways, rather than having students move from classroom to classroom through exterior courtyards,” Chimacum Superintendent Rick Thompson said. “The building they’re in now dates back to 1948.”

Reluctant to invest any more money in a facility without heating or fire suppression systems, Thompson said the current elementary school would be mothballed.

Grades 7-8 will remain on the main campus but will be combined with grades 9-12 to create a “secondary school.” Chimacum Middle School Principal David Carthum will be the principal of the secondary school.

Carthum touted the facilities that will be available on campus, including two libraries, three gyms, a track and field, a playground, and career and technical education spaces, including a woodshop and a computer lab.

Thompson acknowledged the existing high school would require roughly $8 million over half a dozen years to properly accommodate a secondary school.

“That $8 million is the total six-year levy collection,” Thompson said. “Those funds will be used to target improvements campus-wide. A lot of the roofing and flooring work is already done. It does need a new paint job, and some of the systems are starting to wear down.”

Thompson said studies were conducted by architects and engineers to determine which facilities were most worth salvaging, and how much would be required to “upgrade them for the 21st century.”

“Our facility report told us investing capital dollars into the current elementary school site would not be a good idea,” Thompson said. “We worked with a facility committee from 2017-18 to examine all our options. Their recommendation was to keep the primary school and other facilities rated to be in better condition.”

Chimacum High School Principal Brian MacKenzie also is departing the district, but the future is less certain for many other district employees.

“We passed a four-year levy in 2017, but that’s tied to enrollment, which is going down,” Thompson said. “Less enrollment tends to lead to fewer teachers. We’ll maximize those dollars for staff as best we can, but part of the McCleary decision also restricts what local levies can collect. We’re talking to state legislators to see if they’ll allow us to collect what our voters passed, but in the meantime, we can’t pass a deficit budget.”

Thompson said the state Legislature has until June 30 to make up its mind, barring any special sessions, whereas the school district’s deadline to notify staff of any reductions in force is May 13.

“There’s also some anxiety about where we’re going to be moving classrooms,” Carthum said. “At the same time, our staff are excited by the opportunity to chart a new course with the secondary school.”

Carthum suggested the middle school might receive a closing ceremony before it’s phased out, but he’s not worried about integrating middle school students with high school students.

“If anything, I think we’ll need to get the high school staff and students used to the middle school kids,” Carthum said. “My former high school is now a 7-12 school and is working well. By consolidating the middle-school and high-school grades, we can foster some great mentorship between the older and younger kids. And by having the elementary school on the same campus, it’s easier to develop vertical alignment between the grade levels.”

Thompson concurred that Chimacum students would respond well to this consolidation, citing University of Washington studies showing that schools which have more grade levels under one roof, including K-12 and K-8 schools, are among the most effective.

Not only does Carthum see the consolidation enabling teachers to coordinate their lessons more effectively, from elementary to secondary school, but he expressed enthusiasm for working with Lynch to create “fewer transitions” for the students.

“I know the staff of both the middle and high schools,” Carthum said. “I’ve worked with them all before.”

Carthum said the exact layout of classes is still being mapped out, although certain classes, such as science, art and woodshop, will remain in the spaces designed for them.

At the same time, Carthum sees the potential to expand elective opportunities for the students, from language arts to career and technical education.

“It will be wonderful to finish my career here,” Carthum said.

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