Within the next three months, the Sequim School District hopes to settle the future of Sequim Community School and its various community programs.
Next week the district will open the doors to the school for its constituents and program users, aiming to get more information and suggestions.
A community meeting is planned in the commons at the Sequim Community School, 220 W. Alder St., for Wednesday, Nov. 30. The meeting will begin at 6 p.m. and is expected to last until 7:30 p.m.
Patsene Dashiell, the Sequim School District’s community liaison, said a district facilities committee plans to meet with the agencies the district is not required to provide space for prior to the Nov. 30
meeting. Those include Head Start, First Teacher, Women, Infants and Children (WIC), Snap, and Peninsula College’s GED and English Language Learners programs.
At the Nov. 30 meeting, school superintendent Bill Bentley and members of the facilities committee plan to present an update, setting aside time to break into small group discussions. Attendees will be asked to provide input at the end of the meeting.
Constructed in 1950, the building opened as an elementary school, with two remodels (1952 and 1954) before being transformed into a middle school in 1979. After Sequim Middle School was built in 1998 on Hendrickson Road, Sequim Community School became a home for various school district and community programs.
Even before a facilities committee recommended a school closure in 2008, district officials had considered shuttering at least part of the 71,000-square-foot building. Rehabilitating the facility, they note, would cost more than building a new facility.
For a number of programs using rooms in the Sequim Community School, it’s time to find new venues.
Anna Wilson, board president of Snap, said they are discussing the fact that many of their students come from Port Angeles and whether or not they want to stay in Sequim. Most founding members of the group lived in Sequim at the time. Snap provides educational opportunities for about 40 students ages 21 and up with developmental disabilities to break down barriers and lead a full life in their communities.
Classes run Tuesday-Thursday and offer education in such things as how to be safe and sound, drumming and culture studies.
Bonne Smith, instructor, said they’ve had an in-kind relationship with the district for 12 years. The board of directors recently agreed to budget for a future rental space after their June courses end.
Wilson said the school district offered them an after-hours classroom on weekdays and weekends.
Shelley Langston, schools’ special programs director, confirmed this, but said the No. 1 goal of the district is to relocate its programs like Olympic Peninsula Academy.
“Then next step is how can we be helpful,” Langston said. “If there’s a way to make something work, then this is the time to be creative.”
Said Wilson, “It’s heartwarming to hear that they are trying to help us. It’s very nice of the school district. They don’t have to provide anything for us.”
Wilson said there are pros and cons to the option. Some benefits would be no rent and better bathroom accessibility but the hours might not line up with Paratransit and the room might not hold all of their equipment.
Their budget is under $50,000 a year with two paid, part-time staff, and six volunteers.
Head Start seeks all-day, all-year space
OlyCAP provides child care and social services through Head Start, ages 3-5, and Early Head Start, birth to age 3, at Sequim Community School.
Janet Anderson, chief operating officer for OlyCAP, said they are exploring different possibilities for the programs, but their options are dependent upon having an appropriate learning environment all day and all year, such as they have at the community school.
“It’s hard to find spaces like this,” Anderson said.
More than 30 children receive care in the programs.
“With funds being cut, we can’t take on more costs,” Anderson said about a rental space.
But like the other agencies, Head Start is open to donated space.
First Teacher, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping parents with pre-kindergarten-age children, also likely is seeking a new home. The program serves parents like Christiane Johnson, who brings her 2-year-old Kaija to First Teacher twice a week for programs. They first visited when Kaija was 6 months old and they were new to Sequim.
Dr. Cynthia Martin, founder of First Teacher, said she’s not sure what’s going to happen with the program.
She said her program paid for the $250,000 playground at the school and if they move, they’ll be without that resource.
“We’ve always been a school district program and we’re questioning whether we should be taken out,” Martin said.
The district continues to donate space for First Teacher but has not provided additional funding for a few years.
Martin said the program includes newsletters and educational classes.
She said they are considering switching newsletters to Internet-based to save on printing costs. They also continue to write grants for classes.
The facility opens four days a week with all-volunteer support.
Martin said the program could be sustained with fewer hours per day but it would be difficult if the number of days were cut.
“We’re waiting until after meetings to know what our next step is,” she said. “We’re hoping someone can come up with some wonderful idea. We’ve started to look.
Maybe someone will contact us.”