Growing pains drive next school bond

Students have overwhelmed the 200 Building, officials say.

Even before the bell’s echo has faded, the student body surges into the Bainbridge High School Commons.

Kids are everywhere. Some climb onto tables, while others perch on concrete barriers along the periphery of the lunchroom.

A long line in front of the snack cart snakes around knots of gesticulating classmates, as 100 conversations rise in deafening surroundsound.

When the bell sounds again a few minutes later, the crowd pours from the building, a receding tide that leaves a scattering of empty wrappers and milk cartons.

The mid-morning break is a daily event at BHS – and a microcosm of the problems of the outdated facility, where congestion in hallways has reached such proportions that just getting to class on time can be a scramble.

The 200 Building, the core facility that houses the high school’s administrative and counseling offices, the library and commons, was intended to serve a student body of 800 or 900 hundred – not today’s 1,357.

“As a parent, when I think of Bainbridge High School, I think of it as a fairly new facility,” said Brent Peterson, who has worked in the district for more than two decades and assumed the reins as BHS principal last fall. “But the 100 Building was built 34 years ago, in 1970, and the 200 Building was built in 1977.”

Other BHS facilities, pieced together over the years, need renovation to complete a project begun in 1997 with the district’s last capital facilities bond, a $26.8 million measure. That money funded construction of the 300 Building and Paski Gymnasium, but the district deferred work on the 100 and 200 buildings.

Now a second phase of construction is being planned to finish the modernization. The school district plans to place a bond measure before voters in February 2005. Originally slated for this November, the bond measure was pushed back to allow more time for community input.

The bond will not include money for major renovations to the three elementary schools and Commodore Center; voters likely will be asked to approve another bond for that work in 2010 or 2012.

The work now being planned is needed to “protect the community’s investment,” district officials say, while addressing facility deficiencies and modifying the high school to meet new program needs.

But some repairs will simply fix the wear and tear of a quarter century of use and abuse.

Superintendent of Schools Ken Crawford puts it this way:

“If you were to put 60 kids in your 2,000-square-foot home for seven hours a day, 180 days a year, I suspect you’d want to remodel the house within the next 20 to 30 years. These (school) buildings are all eligible for renovation or replacement.”

The need

A task force of parents, school personnel and community members has been meeting since school began last fall to identify building needs and determine the bond amount.

Co-chaired by Crawford and Clif McKenzie, the Long Range Capital Facilities Committee is considering improvements ranging from replacing the building housing the school lunch room/commons to installing artificial turf at the football field.

The group is guided in part by a facilities survey completed last fall that itemized essential repairs to give school district buildings 30 more years of life.

“Yes, the schools need some help,” said Mike Currie, committee member and district director of facilities. “That’s because we’ve had very little, budget-wise, to maintain them with. And that’s because the school district has focused energy and resources in the classroom.

“That’s probably where it should be. But eventually, the roof will fall in.”

A draft list of renovations will be presented for community discussion in a series of public meetings later this spring.

At issue will be the scope of work; the initial list will define needs rather than considering means. Community feedback will help shape the final recommendations to the school board, with a decision on the bond amount slated for May.

While figures as high as $40 million have been discussed, some on the school board want to see that number lower, perhaps less that $30 million.

Even that talk is premature, school board president Bruce Weiland cautions.

“The key is, we’re still assessing needs and that’s before we start considering the structure of funding,” Weiland said. “The whole process will be done with involvement of many segments of the public.”

In considering the high school, the facilities committee will tackle such questions as whether to remodel or rebuild the 200 Building, and whether to replace 250-seat LGI room with a 600-seat auditorium.

“At 800 students, the 260-seat capacity worked quite well,” Peterson said. “You could have all the students from any given grade and their parents there. Now you can only do that in the gym.”

Older facilities are simply wearing out. The lower gym leaks so badly that a recent “painting party” of students and parents found their new paint job on the building’s interior washed away as fast as they brushed it on.

Outdoor athletic facilities in need of repair include the track, now 10 years past its recommended life span.

Safety considerations and new understanding of what constitutes a healthy school environment suggest other changes, Crawford says.

“We have a better understanding of the importance of natural light and ventilation,” he said. “The (present ventilation) systems are inadequate.”

Besides building maintenance and repair, Crawford points to pedagogical considerations. Teaching methods have changed over time, and that may mean reconfiguring some spaces.

How to rework the buildings to support new curricula and technologies is being addressed by a smaller committee headed by Peterson.

“We have to not just consider the fact that the buildings are worn down, but make a compelling presentation of the educational needs,” Crawford said.

* * * * *

Other needs

While renovations at Bainbridge High School are the main focus of the 2004 bond, some needs at other sites, identified in a recent facilities study, may also be addressed:

• Wilkes (1954): New entry infill between administration building and southeast classrooms; modernize administration area. Replace smoke/fire detection system; heating system and controls; carpeting; ceilings; roofing; missing skylights; library checkout counter; exterior doors; parking lot paving. Estimate: $1.039 million

• Blakely (1964): New parking lot and paving; smoke detectors; heating system controls; ceilings; heating piping; carpeting; furniture; siding on portables, gym flooring. Asbestos materials abatement. Estimate: $611,380

• Ordway (1978): New covered walkway to portables; gym wall surfacing; paint corridors; carpeting; intercom; gym floor and lighting; remove sinks and cabinets from corridors; replace chalkboards with whiteboards. Asbestos materials abatement. Estimate: $375,864

• Commodore Center (1948 wing recently torn down; additions in 1951 and 1970): Replace ceilings; roofing; boiler; toilet partitions; fire alarms; playfield irrigation system. New furniture and sprinkler systems; repair asphalt. Estimate: $940,398

Source: Bainbridge Island School District

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