When it rains, it's Commodore

Plagued by a sieve-like roof and other structural problems, the decrepit northwest wing of “old Commodore” likely will be closed or demolished by next school year.

While cautioning against moving ahead of “good planning,” schools Superintendent Ken Crawford said, “everything we see visually would suggest that we’re going to have move more quickly with demolition...

“You can’t walk up and down the hall without looking up and seeing leakage from the roof.”

Fate of the former middle school – the west half of which was built in the late 1940s, and the east wing around 1980 – has vexed the school board for several years.

Various educational “options” programs and community groups have mushroomed throughout its corridors over the last half-decade, and it was used as overflow space during construction of new Bainbridge High School buildings.

Precious classroom space is also needed to accommodate a projected enrollment bulge at the high school in the next few years.

But much of Commodore’s old wing has fallen into sad disrepair. Its biggest failing is a “butterfly roof” that – rather unwisely, given the Northwest climate – channels water toward a trough in the center of the structure rather than away toward the edges.

The aging roof leaks badly, and the school’s central interior hallway is lined with makeshift gutters that send rainwater into waiting garbage cans.

“Because maintenance doesn’t have a lot of money to spend, they’ve just been smearing buckets of tar on the top, and that doesn’t cut it,” school district facilities director Mike Currie told the board Thursday.

In a 90-minute discussion, the board found general consensus for demolishing roughly half of the old wing – including the gymnasium and cafeteria, which are said to not meet current seismic codes.

A new student commons and a large classroom space, totaling 5,200 square feet, would be constructed in their place somewhere on the campus. New covered walkways are also envisioned to unite the various buildings, while portables could be brought in for classrooms if needed.

The newer east wing is structurally solid, and will continue to house the Commodore Options programs and the new Eagle Harbor High School.

District officials hope the south wing of old Commodore can dodge the wrecking ball for another five to seven years with a $200,000 remodel – including a new roof – until it too would come down.

Engineers and architects will be on campus next week, Crawford said. If the south wing is found to be in poorer-than-expected shape, board members said that it too should come down soon.

“I don’t want to keep the south wing and find out it’s just as rotten as what we’ve torn down,” board member Bruce Weiland said. “That would be arbitrary and ridiculous.”

Total project cost for demolition and reconstruction could hit $1.9 million, according to a worksheet provided by the district.

The board is considering borrowing money until a multi-million-dollar facilities bond for long-term capital needs goes before voters. That levy is unlikely until 2005 at the earliest, officials say.

Timing will drive much of what is accomplished before the 2003-04 school year, as the district faces a tight schedule for design and project permitting.

Quick construction of new classroom space is unlikely, and the prospect of having demolition work going after classes resume was not greeted with favor by board members or educators.

“We have to admit we’re taking a risk,” Weiland said. “That’s true of every remodel.”

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