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Next school bond levy in the works

The “three R’s” took a back seat to the “three B’s” – building, budget and bond levy – at Tuesday’s school board meeting.

Four construction options for local schools, to be funded by a bond levy slated to go before voters next February, were presented by Mike Currie, district facilities director.

The proposals – developed over the past year by a capital projects steering committee comprised of district representatives and community members – range from $33.6 million to $44.5 million.

“We’re really in the preliminary stages,” said Cheryl Dale, school board president. “The board has stated we will never let this go forward until we make sure the community has had a lot of involvement with the process.”

The last construction bond to go before voters in 1997 allocated $26.8 million to capital improvements – $14 million for a new high school wing and gymnasium, and $12 million for Sakai Intermediate School, with the remainder slated for upkeep on other district buildings.

The upcoming levy will raise funds for high school spaces that still need renovation – the high school’s 200 Building where the Commons, office and library are, and the building that now houses “home and family life” and art.

At the “low” end, the $33.6 million building plan would refurbish the 100 and 200 buildings, while the $44.5 million option would replace both.

All four options contain elements in common, including replacing the LGI theater with a performing arts center, at a cost of $6 million; putting an addition on the music building; and refurbishing other campus buildings.

The plans will see changes before a levy comes to voters, board members said.

“You have four options, but there is flexibility,” Superintendent Ken Crawford told the board. “You might leave the LGI in place. You might consider whether this is the round when we complete the high school or should there be a third phase in five years.”

Commodore out

What is certain, says school board president Cheryl Dale, is that the oldest parts of Commodore, built in 1947, will finally be demolished.

The district plans to refurbish the remaining parts of the complex and add a new section. The renovated space will accommodate “alternative” programs now spread throughout the building, including Odyssey Multiage Classroom, Renaissance and Contract Studies.

The youth-oriented nonprofit agencies that are Commodore tenants will still be housed in the district, and a district site will be found for the Teen Center, also located in the part of Commodore to be torn down.

No final decision has been made about Bainbridge Island Broadcasting, another tenant.

Parking is another issue addressed in the building plans.

Site development emphasizes access to the site and separation of vehicles and people.

A new bus entrance would be created east of BHS by filling in “the pit,” and Commodore lots would be accessible from High School Road. Students and visitors would use the west entrance, and staff would share the east entrance with buses.

Changes would add about 150 parking spaces, bringing the total to around 600.

Tentative plans also include relocating the tennis court; adding parking along the west side of the BHS campus; replacing a grassy area behind the stadium with staff parking; and making more spaces where the Teen Center is currently located.

While several board members questioned just how much asphalt is truly necessary, the need to reconfigure parking is not at issue.

“We have very limited visitor parking, for example,” Dale said, “and when parents come in during the day, there is no place to park. People are parked illegally when there is a football game.”

But adding more than 5,000 square feet of of asphalt means spending $1.5 million to build underground retention tanks to catch surface run-off water or open ponds that would use four to five acres that must be retained for parking.

No date set

Although the bond time-line calls for a vote in February, the vote may be deferred to late spring.

Board members say it will take more work to finalize the construction wish-list and admit that prioritizing the wide range of the options makes constructing this bond levy far more complex than in 1997, when most of the funds were targeted to building Sakai.

While board members expressed concern that the preliminary estimates are high compared to what the district spent in 1997 to build a high school and a new gym, Currie noted that the site development outside of the buildings had pushed up the total.

Original plans for developing the construction bond plan included participation of a 30-member committee comprised of staff, community members, site council representatives and parents – but the group, while identified, was never convened by former school superintendent Steve Rowley.

The board plans to send a district-wide letter in September that will address facility needs and catalogue the condition of the buildings. Then, the community-at-large will be invited for a walk-though.

“There really is not a pat formula for how to approach this,” Crawford said. “We want to take extra time so we can go to the voters with complete confidence.”

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