Bainbridge school district looks at future options that include closing Commodore, moving Ordway students

Bainbridge school officials are ready to present their ideas for revamping island schools to fit a future that includes fewer students and continuing fiscal woes.

A series of three community meetings will kick off next week, and the Bainbridge Island School District is looking for feedback on whether the existing configuration of schools should be kept the same or if other scenarios should be pursued.

Those options include closing the Commodore building and moving Ordway Elementary students to other schools.

The community meetings are:

7 p.m. Tuesday, May 7 in the commons at Commodore Options School, 9530 NE High School Road;

7 p.m. Tuesday, May 14, in the commons at Captain Charles Wilkes Elementary, 12781 Madison Ave. NE; and

7 p.m. Thursday, May 16, in the commons at Bainbridge High, 9330 NE High School Road.

District officials said changes are needed because of declining enrollment and cuts in state funding.

Enrollment in the district has dropped by 426 students since 2005, and is expected to remain flat in the coming years.

A 30-member school configuration committee has been studying options for aligning Bainbridge schools with the declining numbers of students that are expected in island classrooms in the coming years.

The committee is expected to give the school board a set of options to be considered, by fall 2013. District officials said the earliest that any changes would be implemented would be in the fall of 2014.

Three options are under consideration.

The first is to keep the current configuration of seven schools.

The district would maintain three elementary schools for grades K-4, one intermediate school for grades 5-6, one middle school for grades 7-8, one high school for grades 9-12, and a facility for the K-12 options programs.

The second option is based on six schools.

Three schools would house grades K-5, one middle school would serve grades 6-8, the high school would continue with grades 9-12, and the sixth school would host the K-12 options programs.

Under this option, fifth-grade students would stay at their current elementary school and sixth-graders would attend Woodward Middle School. Ordway Elementary students would move to Sonoji Sakai Intermediate School, and the Commodore Options School programs would move to the Ordway building. The Commodore building would be closed.

The third option also is centered on a total of six schools, but would be based on a K-4 configuration.

Two elementary schools would serve students in kindergarten through fourth grade. The district would have one intermediate school for fifth- and sixth-graders, a middle school for seventh- and eighth-graders, a high school for grades 9-12, and a school devoted to the K-12 options programs.

Under this option, students from Ordway would be divided between Captain Johnston Blakely Elementary and Wilkes Elementary. Commodore Options School programs would move to the Ordway building, and the Commodore building would close.

All three options also present different financial considerations for the school district.

Estimates have been based on the district's master plan, adopted in 2005, that sets out replacement costs for new school facilities in the coming years.

With the first option, which keeps the current configuration of schools, replacing the schools that would be kept in use would require the passage of bonds totaling $102 million.

Replacing Blakely and Ordway elementaries would cost $30 million each; replacement of the 100 Building at Bainbridge High is estimated at $18 million, and replacing Commodore is expected to cost $24 million.

The operational costs for the first option — educational programs, operating facilities, transportation — would stay the same. Staffing costs would change with enrollment.

The second option, for six schools using the K-5 configuration, is expected to cut staffing costs by $300,000 to $350,000.

Operational costs would decline by $80,000, due to the closure of the Commodore building. Transportation costs would also drop by $20,000.

District officials said option two could be implemented in fall 2014 or 2015 by using portables to house students. Two portables for fifth-grade students would be used at both Blakely and Wilkes, and two portables would be needed at Woodward for sixth-grade students. Sakai would be renovated to accommodate kindergarteners.

The second phase of option two — replacing the portables by expanding Wilkes and Woodward, and replacing Blakely — would happen in the future, after voters approve a $35 million bond measure.

Officials said implementation of the K-5 configuration could also be delayed so facility changes could be made in one phase. The cost of doing all the needed changes at once would require a $38 million bond.

Under option three, the K-4 configuration, staffing costs are expected to be reduced between $200,000 and $250,000. Operational costs would decline by $80,000 due to the closure of the Commodore building, but transportation costs would climb by $10,000.

Officials note that option three could not be started until a bond measure is approved by voters, however. That's because there simply isn't enough space at the Blakely and Wilkes schools to accommodate the number of portables needed to handle the students that are shifted to those schools.

Option three would also require the passage of a $39 million bond measure.

Other costs identified in the district's master plan, such as the replacement of Building 100 at BHS, would also remain.


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