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District officials look at aging buildings | Schools

Cedar Heights Junior High is one of two schools, along with South Colby Elementary, that could be targeted for replacement through a future capital facilities bond. - Courtesy Photo
Cedar Heights Junior High is one of two schools, along with South Colby Elementary, that could be targeted for replacement through a future capital facilities bond.
— image credit: Courtesy Photo

South Kitsap School District officials are busy planning for a maintenance-and-operation levy, but a capital improvement bond might not be too far behind.

School-board president Kathryn Simpson said the board of directors has had some preliminary discussions about the district’s facilities.

Last month, SKSD had a building condition assessment completed by the Education Service District 112 Construction Services Group, which is required every six years by the state. The district’s average building score was 58.74. According to the assessment paperwork, a new building rated excellent receives a score of 100. A rating of 60 is regarded as fair, while 30 or less is poor. Tom O’Brien, the district’s director of facilities and operations, said schools are evaluated in several areas with the condition of some aspects, such as the roof, weighted more than the building’s carpet.

East Port Orchard Elementary School, which reopened in 1991, is the newest building in SKSD. It also had the highest rating at 69.41. Cedar Heights Junior High (41.33) was the lowest ranked among the 16 facilities evaluated. The 56-year-old South Colby Elementary (47.4) was the next lowest ranked. It is the third-oldest school in the district behind Orchard Heights (1945) and Olalla (1954) elementary schools.

School-board member Greg Wall said his focus is on the upcoming replacement levy, which the board plans to place on the ballot in February. But he noted at a recent board meeting that putting off construction projects likely will make them more expensive in the future when the economy is better and interest rates increase.

“It’s no secret that we have some maintenance things that need to be taken care of,” Wall said.

Simpson, who represents District 4, which consists of Lund, Bethel and Parkwood, said she does not plan to run again when her term expires in 2013. But she believes the district needs a capital improvements levy within a year or two after the replacement levy.

“We as a district are going to have to have some serious conversations about facilities over the next several years,” Simpson said. “It can’t be put off.”

SKSD last put a bond issue before voters in 2007. At that time, district officials asked for a $163.2 million capital-facilities bond that would have paid for a new high school, rebuilt South Colby Elementary and improved technology infrastructure, roofing, heating and cooling systems, and physical education and athletic programs. It failed by about eight-percentage points of the required 60 percent to pass.

Simpson said a second high school — SKSD purchased a 56-acre plot near the intersection of Old Clifton and Feigley roads in 2003 — remains a long-term priority. But she feels South Colby needs to be addressed first. Simpson praised the school’s culture and achievement, but said the bad “cover” on the school was a deterrent to families moving into the area.

“The communities around us are doing better for their families,” she said.

Cedar Heights, which opened in 1968, was constructed during an era when the open-classroom concept was popular. The school was constructed without interior walls, which created a loud and disruptive environment. Cedar Heights since has added walls, but its condition ranks far behind the district’s newer junior highs — Marcus Whitman (1979) and John Sedgwick (1982).

O’Brien said the condition of Cedar Heights and South Colby would make both schools eligible for state funding if they are replaced.

Another project that Simpson said is a priority involves the replacement of the roof at Sidney Glen Elementary. The condition of the tile roof downgraded the school, which was built in 1990 along with Hidden Creek, to 57.27. Bremerton High School also had a tile roof installed in 1987 and district officials there said it needs to replace that roof, as well.

One project that appears indefinitely on hold involves replacing the grass surface at Joe Knowles Stadium.

The Washington Interscholastic Activities Association does not allow games in the final two rounds of the state playoffs to be held on grass surfaces. That means the Wolves have played “home” state games in football and soccer at venues such as Silverdale Stadium and Mount Tahoma High School.

South Kitsap High School athletic director Ed Santos explored replacing the surface with FieldTurf in 2009, but found that drainage issues, which would require excavation to replace the system, would increase the project’s cost to $1.7 million

Santos noted at the time that SKSD then could rent the field to club soccer programs when it was not used for high-school athletics.

“That would have to pencil out before I would be willing to go into non-voter debt on it,” Simpson said.

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