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Schools eye $32.6 million bond levy for buildings

The aging BHS campus requires upgrades to keep up with the student population.

Bainbridge schools may ask voters for some $32.558 million to improve the Bainbridge High School campus.

A planning committee’s recommendation for a capital facilities bond measure slated to come before voters in February 2005 will be discussed at a 5:30 p.m. study session preceding Thursday’s school board meeting.

“It’s very preliminary,” said Superintendent Ken Crawford, who co-chairs the committee with Clif Mackenzie, a veteran of recent school bond and levy campaigns. “The committee makes the proposal, and then the board has to weigh that against political sentiment and pragmatic concerns.”

The outline of a plan that would see the high school’s 200 Building and the Large Group Instruction Room replaced, will be presented to the board by the Long Range Capital Facilities Committee, comprised of school officials and community members.

The committee has met since last fall, reviewing a recent facilities audit, conducting walk-through inspections of schools, and considering an engineering firm’s presentation of building options.

The group focused on the two high school buildings over 30 years old – the state’s recommended threshhold for renovation or replacement – a category that includes the 200 Building with the main office and library, the 100 Building (LGI theater), and the older parts of the 300 and 500 buildings that include classrooms and the old gymnasium.

A priority are the so-called “core” areas like the commons and the LGI, gathering spaces feeling the pinch of a student body that has grown from 900 to 1,350 in the last decade.

“We know we’re going to have that number for the next 10 years,” Crawford said. “We did build a gymnasium for 1,250 students, now we need to do the same for the other core facilities.”

The committee does not recommend building for the “optimal” level of 1,400 students; with fewer kids entering island elementary schools – a phenomenon attributed to changing demographics, and expected to continue – the recommendations target a midrange population of 1,250. Classroom space for more can be found at Commodore or with portables, if needed.

The report suggests renovating the 100 Building – still solid after more than 30 years – retrofitting classrooms to serve special education and vocational programs that have expanded in scope.

But the 200 Building, with the commons, library, and counseling and administrative offices, is less substantial, Crawford and others say, which may make expansion there less feasible.

“You can’t add a second story to those marginally reinforced masonry walls,” Crawford said, “and if you push the walls out, it looks like a laundry and bathroom that’s been added to an old farmhouse.”

While new construction is more expensive, renovation could reach 80 percent of new building costs, Crawford said.

Other advantages to new construction might include keeping students in place during the work, rather than relocating them.

Other improvements under consideration include repairs to the mechanical systems of the elementaries and Commodore; artificial turf on the Memorial Stadium football field; and a new maintenance shed.

The last facilities bond, a $26.8 million dollar measure passed in 1997, underwrote construction of Sakai Intermediate School and the first phase of the high school’s modernization, including expansion of the 300 Building, and a new gym.

The need to focus on the grade schools in a future bond measure is one reason to finish high school needs this time around Crawford said.

A levy to raise money for technology will likely come to voters at the same time, and cost between $4.2 and $4.6 million, spread over four to six years, Crawford said.

The district will survey public opinion over the next month and community members will be invited to weigh in at a public forum sometime in May.

“It’s a lot of money, but by no means out of the ordinary for school districts of this size,” Crawford said.

“We need facilities that equal our expectations for our students’ performance.”

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