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SKSD set to examine facilities issues
There could be a significant shift in the administrative to-do list this year in the South Kitsap School District.
A couple of major focuses during superintendent Michelle Reid’s first year included bolstering the district’s dwindling reserve fund and adding to the Advanced Placement and all-day kindergarten programs with an eye toward better preparing students for post-secondary education.
With those tasks underway, Reid said it is time for the district to examine other issues. She said SKSD will assemble a “long range capital facilities committee” this month that will help the district assess several issues. Among those are SKSD’s aging schools.
In September 2012, the district had a building condition assessment completed by the Education Service District 112 Construction Services Group, which is required every six years by the state. SKSD’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 within 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. South Colby Elementary, which was 56 years old at the time, was the next lowest ranked at 47.4. It is the third-oldest school in the district behind Orchard Heights (1945) and Olalla (1954) elementary schools.
Reid noted that every school in the district is eligible for matching funds from the state for a rebuild because of their ages.
A project of that magnitude likely would require a capital bond. 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.
SKSD still is making loan payments on the site of the proposed second high school — the district purchased a 56-acre plot near the intersection of Old Clifton and Feigley roads in 2003. When asked if a new high school could be included in a potential capital levy, Reid said “I think everything is on the table.”
That also includes shuttering a school. Other districts in Kitsap County, including Bremerton, Central Kitsap and North Kitsap, have closed schools during the last decade because of declining enrollment. Givens Elementary, which now is a community center, was the last South Kitsap school closed, in 1990. But that corresponded with the addition of three new elementary schools — Hidden Creek, Mullenix Ridge and Sidney Glen — that opened the same year.
“Do we need to contemplate any kind of a school closure move if our enrollment doesn’t stabilize?” Reid said. “We have a good feeling about the enrollment, though, because we’re seeming to flatten the loss and hopefully this year we will gain some kids back.”
She believes the disproportionate enrollments at some schools could be addressed by examining the district’s boundaries, which Reid said a committee will be assigned to look at. Reid said “no one seems to know” the last time SKSD’s boundaries were redrawn.
“We like many districts get population shifts,” she said. “We’re going to have to shift kids to be efficient with what we’re doing.”
Several district officials also long have believed that the transition from junior highs to middle schools could alleviate some of those issues. SKSD officials have discussed that transformation dating back to 1992. When it was discussed in 2009, O’Brien said it would make sense because it followed a national trend.
There are four main models for educating the cluster of middle grades: fifth through eighth; sixth through eighth; seventh and eighth; and seventh through ninth.
According to the Middle Level Leadership Center research, 45 percent of schools featured the seventh through ninth option in 1970. That fell to just percent to just 5 percent in 2000. During the same span, sixth through eighth schools rose from 16 to 59 percent.
“That’s going to be a conversation topic that’s connected to that rebounding conversation,” said Reid, who noted that ninth-grade students now have several Advanced Placement course options. “My personal opinion is that it’s most helpful to have ninth grade with high school.”
Regardless of which course the committees recommend, Reid said she wants SKSD’s strategic plan in place by Feb. 1, 2015, that will “guide” the district through 2020.