Changes afoot as voters OK school bond

Also getting the nod Tuesday was a $6.1 million technology levy.

The permanent fix begins with a portable solution.

So don’t be surprised this summer when double-wide trailers are plunked down next to Bainbridge High School, as school officials begin shuffling classes and students with a major construction project on the horizon.

The portables will become next year’s math classrooms, while rooms in the 300 building vacated by math students will be converted for science classes – larger spaces with sinks and other equipment – before next fall.

All the while, planning will get under way on a new high school wing, replete with a library, cafeteria and more classrooms still, a project expected to break ground in summer 2007.

“There’s just a couple of miracles in the making here, but I’m feeling like I can get them accomplished,” said Tamela VanWinkle, project manager for the Bainbridge Island School District.

Bainbridge voters overwhelmingly approved a $45 million construction bond Tuesday to relieve high school overcrowding and patch up buildings district-wide. A four-year, $6.1 million technology levy also passed with solid support.

The results thrilled school supporters, stung by a first-ever levy defeat just a year ago.

“We thought we had the support, and it was just a matter of whether our supporters turned out,” said Clif McKenzie, who co-chaired the “Yes for Schools” campaign. “And, boy, have they ever.”

Backers were generally optimistic about the construction bond, the first floated by the district in nearly a decade.

Hope for the tech levy was more guarded, after a larger measure earned just 43 percent at the polls last May. The school board responded to that defeat by slashing the levy by a third, paring out items perceived to be extravagant.

The levy approved Tuesday will replace student computers, provide new audio-visual instructional equipment and fund a communications system district-wide.

The “Yes” campaign used an extensive phone bank system to rally support, with some 260 volunteers making an estimated 20,000 calls to island households since January.

School board member Bruce Weiland called the results “a great day for Bainbridge, because we reaffirmed our commitment to kids and education.”

Preparation for the construction bond included an extensive master planning process that outlined capital needs on district campuses for the next 15 years.

The district also named two citizen advisory committees to work with school officials in designing facilities and purchasing equipment for classrooms.

Those moves, Weiland said, showed the district’s commitment to working “in a transparent and accessible way.”

Plan, build

With the money in hand, the school district and community members now must decide precisely how to spend it.

The district has already retained Mahlum Architects of Seattle, the firm that crafted a district-wide master plan last year, to draft plans specific to the high school campus.

The challenges include:

• High school planning. Short a dozen classrooms and with library and commons areas overcrowded, the high school’s 200 wing is slated for likely replacement. How a new building might be situated on the campus, and how work would be phased during the expected 12 months of construction remain to be determined.

In the meantime, four current math classrooms in the 300 wing fronting High School Road will be reconfigured to make three properly outfitted science classrooms. Displaced math students will be moved to portables in a courtyard next to the Commodore building.

• Other building repairs. The bond included $4.54 million for upgrades to sagging elementary school buildings, of which the oldest, Wilkes, was constructed in 1954. VanWinkle hopes to put new roofs on several buildings over the summer, including Commodore, Wilkes and an older high school wing.

Other planned upgrades include heating and ventilation, security upgrades and miscellaneous repairs that will be implemented over time.

• Athletic fields. The construction bond includes $2.5 million for renovation of athletic fields on the high school grounds, but consensus has yet to be reached on one key question: natural grass or artificial turf?

The district gave the issue cursory discussion in early 2005, but youth soccer interests have since begun working with the park district to put turf fields at Battle Point Park. The school district is expected to convene a citizen committee to study the alternatives.

The list of projects district-wide is long enough that it will take up to four years to complete.

“I want to be aggressive in the work that we can accomplish, but I also want to be realistic,” VanWinkle said. “I want the work to get done to the expectations of the community and I want it done right. We can’t do everything immediately, nor should we.”

* * * * *

Yes, twice

Results of Tuesday’s twin school funding measures:

$45 million construction bond:

Yes 6,600 71%

No 2,707 29%

$6.1 million technology levy:

Yes 6,107 65%

No 3,247 35%

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