Planning has begun for the next steps with Sequim School District’s infrastructure.
A team of parents with and without children in the district, retirees and business owners have been meeting with BLRB Architects, a consultant firm hired to evaluate the school district’s facilities to formulate the needs and wants of the community in its schools.
Superintendent Kelly Shea said the pre-bond planning committee’s goal is to help him come to the Sequim School Board with a single recommendation for what’s best for the district. The school board will either reject it, adjust the concept or send it to the community for a vote on a bond.
Lee Fenton, managing principal of BLRB, said the committee is just revving up and “at this level, we aren’t holding back.”
In these early discussions, committee members are looking at all of the schools and setting priorities. They brought four drafts to the school board on Aug. 5 that showed various concepts, some of which included:
• Building an elementary school on the Helen Haller Elementary property or Sequim Community School property
• Buying three acres of land west of Sequim Middle School for use in the future
• Creating more parking
• Shuffling playfields and creating new ones
While two of the concepts showed a new high school building, Fenton said the committee preferred to keep it in place and/or expanding it.
Shea said planning is like playing chess and that the district needs to be thinking two or three moves ahead.
“We don’t want to get too caught up in locked model,” he said. “How do we create something that can adapt?”
He mentioned ideas of building to the east and planning for growth by building smaller schools in communities. Shea also suggested ideas that the district may need to keep Helen Haller because of recent investments in heaters and the roof and convert it to a fourth- and fifth-grade building with K-3 elementary schools in the community.
Jim Stoffer, co-chairman of the committee, said they know there are plenty of needs at all the campuses such as safety and a lack of space at the campuses.
“We know the core issues and we want to meet those needs first,” he said.
“We saw that with the decision to hold back on funding all-day kindergarten, people didn’t understand (the district) doesn’t have the classroom space. Our job is to expose that to the community.”
Sue Ellen Riesau, co-chairman of the committee, said they are exploring as many ideas possible and that they’ve looked into partnering with the Sequim Library since the beginning, which also is considering an expansion.
“(The library) may be asking the same people for the same money,” Shea said.
“It’s possible we may want to build a new high school library and for the two libraries to partner. We need to explore the possibilities.”
While the committee continues to brainstorm, no money amounts have been put on the draft proposals.
Shea said this is on purpose so that everyone can be well-grounded.
“Once we do talk money then we have to cut some things out and we have to be able to merge (ideas),” he said.
Riesau said the committee is excited to discuss dollar amounts and logistics.
“It’s been a lot of fun to this point,” she said. “But we know we won’t get a Mercedes and we don’t want a Pinto.”
School board members were particularly inspired to learn the City of Sequim wants to be in discussions with them about the district’s future plans.
Paul Haines, Sequim public works director, spoke briefly about the vision of the city and how the city wants to partner with the school district.
Bev Horan, a school board member, said years prior the district’s struggle felt like their own but now that the city is looking to partner, she sees it as a positive.
Walt Johnson, also a school board member, agreed saying the city of his previous school district in Michigan felt like an antagonist.
“To see someone stand up and say we’re partnering is … seems like a new thing to me,” he said.
Shea said there are lessons they can learn from the city in its process of building and funding the civic center.
“What are they trying to do with city planning and how can we coordinate with that?” he asked. “We don’t want to go in opposite directions.”
School board president Virginia O’ Neill encouraged reaching out to community members who don’t have school-aged children because they are the majority of Sequim’s population.
The committee plans to meet with the public for the first time with an interactive board at the Clallam County Fair Aug. 15-18 discussing the future layout of school facilities.
Public forums are to be determined and plans are being made for display boards at various school events. For more information, call the school district at 582-3260.