Quilcene district seeks support for new elementary

Posted 9/18/19

It’s early days, but the plan to tax property owners to build a new elementary school at Quilcene has not yet attracted active public opposition.

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Quilcene district seeks support for new elementary

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It’s early days, but the plan to tax property owners to build a new elementary school at Quilcene has not yet attracted active public opposition.

The first of the Quilcene School District’s “listening sessions,” to solicit the community’s input kicked off at the Quilcene Community Center Sept. 10, and was met with a largely positive response from its roughly two dozen attendees, even as they inquired about the specifics of the proposal.

Superintendent Frank Redmon listed some of the shortfalls of the existing elementary school building, which dates back to the 1940s.

Redmon drew on the district’s consultations with Tacoma-based Erickson McGovern Architects. They found the elementary school building’s windows magnify the heat during the summer and allow it to escape during the winter, while its seven-decade-old electrical system struggles to keep up with existing internet and other technology needs.

When coupled with what Redmon identified as “seismic concerns” about the building “just flopping over” during an earthquake, he opined the difference between the costs of renovating versus simply replacing the building to be negligible.

Attendees expressed concerns that Redmon was not able to offer a true “apples-to-apples” cost comparison between renovation versus replacement at the Sept. 10 meeting, since the proposal aims not only to replace the existing building, but also to improve upon it significantly, to help anticipate future needs.

“During our last remodel, we lost art and weight rooms, and a huge shop area,” said Jodi Kieffer, principal for Quilcene School District's Pearl Program, which provides alternative approaches to schooling.

Quilcene K-12 School Principal Sean Moss agreed, touting the opportunity to add career and technical education classes, and community meeting spaces, through a multipurpose design that Redmon had already described as affording more “flexibility” for whatever the needs of education are in the future.

“We currently have some classrooms in portable buildings, but portables are not the answer,” Moss said.

Redmon noted the new building would include 16 classrooms, compared to the existing building’s eight classrooms.

When asked about the Quilcene School’s other buildings, he acknowledged the current high school facility is even older, dating back to the 1930s, and yet, due to its design and renovations over the summer this year, he asserted it’s “in incredible shape” and “the safest building on campus.”

And while the middle school facility dates back to the 1960s, Redmon estimated it would be “more than 40% more expensive” to rebuild than renovate.

When one attendee added up the total cost of the proposal and came up with a $10 million price tag, Redmon referred to it as a “back-of-the-napkin estimate,” even as he conceded that either a rebuild or a renovation would require a bond, and even though the district’s previous bond is paid off, “We know that’s not an easy ask.”

If the community listening sessions and the school board give the go-ahead, Redmon expects this could be a ballot issue by Feb. 14 of next year, which would allow the work to proceed in stages over the course of the next four to five years, with state support anticipated at around 32% of the project’s costs.

“We work really hard to foster the best learning conditions for our kids,” Redmon said. “Our kids deserve better, because they shouldn’t have to work as hard, just because of their circumstances.”

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