New Wilkes Elementary breaks ground

Wilkes Elementary principal Sheryl Belt and several students began digging at the ground breaking ceremony June 8. Construction is scheduled to start no later than July 1. - John Becerra Jr./Staff Photo
Wilkes Elementary principal Sheryl Belt and several students began digging at the ground breaking ceremony June 8. Construction is scheduled to start no later than July 1.
— image credit: John Becerra Jr./Staff Photo

During the groundbreaking ceremony at Wilkes Elementary on June 8 for the new building, school board president Patty Fielding and Tamalea VanWinkle, director of capital projects, became emotional while thanking the multitude of people who worked on making the dream of a new school a reality.

There was also a special guest at the ceremony, Ed King, who started teaching at Wilkes in 1949 and later became the school’s principal.

But the concept, which began six years ago, officially became more than a dream when Principal Sheryl Belt and several current and former students began digging holes in the ground at the new site amid applause from the crowd in attendance.

“It is exciting to see it come to this point and become a reality,” Belt said. “We are all very excited.”

The design of the building, created by Mahlum Architects, will be turned over to Spee West Construction. The firm’s base bid of $20.78 million was approved unanimously at the May 26 school board meeting.

Also approved were two alternate bids for $555,000 for the HVAC control system and $24,000 for classroom storage, such as cupboards, for a total bid of $21.359 million.

There is also $9.9 million budgeted for “soft costs,” which are used for such items as consultants, testing and inspections of the site, fixing furniture and equipment.

Spee West, which has been in business since 1995, specializes in building schools. Owner Doug Spee said the company has built 13 schools in Western Washington, including their most recent project, a renovation of Oak Harbor High School on Whidbey Island.

Spee West has built on the island before, having constructed the city maintenance facility off Hidden Cove Road in 1998.

“We’re really happy to be back,” Spee said at the board meeting. “It’s a nice fit for us right now.”

VanWinkle said having Spee West involved in the building was a major goal of hers. She wanted Spee West to build the 200 Building at Bainbridge High School when it went out for bid – even asking Spee at a conference about seeking the job – but it had to decline due to a packed schedule.

“I called Doug a couple of times and started to slightly feel like a stalker,” she joked at the school board meeting. “(I thought) maybe I shouldn’t call anymore because (he would say) ‘Forget it – this person is nuts.’ But I assured him we were a fabulous district to work for, and he must have believed a little bit in that and decided to submit a bid.”

She said the pre-construction phase began after bid approval with the removal of the playground equipment, and construction is expected to start no later than July 1.


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