Bainbridge school consolidation meetings kick off tonight

Bainbridge Island school officials will host the first of three community meetings tonight on the remaking of public schools on the island in response to declining enrollment and funding.

Officials with the Bainbridge Island School District will present the results of a broad-based community committee that has developed three options for revamping schools.

The meeting is 7 p.m. Tuesday, May 7 in the commons at Commodore Options School.

Pam Keyes, a district spokeswoman, said the meeting will start with a 30-minute presentation on the reconfiguration options.

Members of the audience will be given 3-by-5 cards to jot down questions, and selected queries will be addressed in a question-and-answer session that will follow the presentation.

After the Q&A, attendees will break into smaller groups and summarize their discussions with the rest of the audience at the end of the evening.

"I think it's a well-tested and really good way to provide an opportunity to be heard, because you're in smaller groups," Keyes said.

A public hearing is not planned as part of any of the three community meetings.

Keyes said the district has plans for six public meetings, and she added an online survey will be launched after the first three community meetings are conducted.

Three options under consideration

The first option is largely a status-quo model, and will keep the configuration of grades and schools as-is. The Bainbridge Island School District would continue to use seven buildings, with three elementary schools for children in kindergarten through fourth grade; an intermediate school for fifth- and sixth-graders, a middle school for grades seven and eight, and a high school for grades nine through 12.

The other two options both include closing Ordway Elementary, the district's only centrally located elementary school.

Under the second option proposed by the configuration committee, Ordway students would be moved to Sonoji Sakai Intermediate School.

Sakai currently serves fifth- and sixth-grade students, but would become a K-5 school if the district adopts option two.

Also under option two, Captain Johnston Blakely Elementary and Captain Charles Wilkes Elementary would be expanded to include the fifth grade.

Commodore Options School programs would move to the vacated Ordway building, and the Commodore building would close.

The third option also envisions a future school district with six schools.

Under the third option, the district would close Ordway and have two K-4 schools; Blakely and Wilkes. Sakai would remain a 5-6 intermediate school, Bainbridge High would stay with grades 9-12, and the Commodore Options School programs would move to the Ordway building.

Ordway students would be split between Wilkes and Blakely.

Blakely would grow from approximately 374 students to 582 students; Wilkes would expand from 375 to 583 students.

Cost savings estimated

District officials expect to see near-term cost savings under only one proposal; option two, which is expected to create cost savings of roughly $400,000 in the 2014-15 school year.

The first option, the status-quo approach, would not result in cost savings, according to the school's consolidation committee.

District officials also note that option one would require the eventual passage of $102 million in bonds to complete the district-wide facility replacements that are laid out in the district's 2005 master plan. Those projects include replacing Commodore ($24 million), Ordway ($30 million), Blakely ($30 million) and the 100 Building at BHS ($18 million).

That said, option two would also include a request to voters for a bond approval to pay for new facilities.

Option two would be broken into two phases. The first phase, with students being moved into portables at Blakely, Wilkes and Woodward, could be launched in fall 2014 or 2015.

The second phase would require a $35 million bond to replace Blakey and add space for more students at Wilkes and Woodward.

Committee members have presented an alternative plan where the changes could be adopted in one phase. That would require a bond measure totaling $38 million, however.

The third option could result in a reduction of roughly $300,000 in annual costs, but not until 2019, after a bond measure is passed to help pay for the expansion of Wilkes and Blakely.

No "jump start" option has been identified for option three.

District officials have said that enrollment at Wilkes and Blakely would increase by 180 to 200 students if option three is pursued, but neither Wilkes nor Blakley has enough classroom space for the additional students.

Seven portable classrooms would be needed at both of the schools, and neither school has the space for that many portables on either the Wilkes or Blakey campus.

District officials indicate option three requires the passage of a $39 million bond in the short term to help pay for replacing Blakely with a school that could accommodate 600 students and the expansion of Wilkes with more classrooms to handle the 150 students shifted from Ordway.

Meetings continue next week

Two more meetings on the consolidation effort will be held next week.

The next informational session is 7 p.m. Tuesday, May 14, in the commons at Wilkes; followed by the third meeting at 7 p.m. Thursday, May 16, in the commons at Bainbridge High, 9330 NE High School Road.

The consolidation committee will review the input received during the community meetings as it continues to work on an eventual recommendation to the school board on realignment. That recommendation is expected by October.

While no public hearings on the consolidation proposals have been planned for the immediate future, islanders will get a chance to address the school board directly about any proposed closure before a decision is made.

State law requires school boards to hold public hearings and receive testimony during the 90 days before a school district's final decision on any school closure.


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