Citizens talk about schools at meeting

"Task force ideas discussed, disputed. "

“POULSBO – Laurice Riekki went to the capital facilities meeting Monday night because of her son. Her son is a sophomore at North Kitsap High School. In honors English he has 36 classmates. In his math class he also has 36, which is fewer than the 40 that sat in the classroom at the beginning of year. You’re cramming a lot of people into the facilities, and you can see that much of the building is not wearing well. Kids are not getting the attention they need, Riekii said. Laurice was one of about 25 parents, educators, and community members who went to the meeting at the high school. They were told about the process the capital facilities task force went through. The task force was a group of citizens who met and studied the 1995 facilities plan, which recommended changes to be made to the schools. The 1999-2000 task force studied those recommendations, then looked at new information, including enrollment, population trends, and potential changes in education. Then they made their own recommendations, which include a shift to middle schools (which would include kids from grades 6-8) and a new high school to be built in Kingston. The group at Monday’s meeting was given a summary of the information the task force received. Then its members had some questions of their own. One teacher asked what would be done about the portables, whether they could be replaced or fixed. Others asked about the potential of a new gymnasium for North Kitsap High School (a new floor and bleachers are in the plan). Those who attended the meeting were also asked to vote electronically about whether they agreed or disagreed with statements about potential facility changes. While most voters agreed that Pearson, Suquamish, and Poulsbo Elementary needed upgrades, as well as Poulsbo Junior High and the High School, opinions on other issues were not as clear-cut. While 58 percent of those who voted strongly agreed that the district should go to a middle school system, 17 percent strongly disagreed. And while 87 percent of respondents agreed that a new secondary school should be built in Kingston, thirteen percent strongly disagreed. The voters could pick between Strongly Agree, Agree, Neutral, Disagree, and Strongly Disagree. One participant strongly disagreed with the format itself. He felt that the format of the evening forced the voters to either agree or disagree with the task force’s recommendations, instead of giving them the chance to give recommendations of their own. When talk turned to the potential of a new high school, Riekki spoke up. You said that you want to do this (build a new high school) to avoid a mega-high school, she said. But that school already is a mega-high school. Afterwards, she said she liked the process. I was impressed. They’re attempting to cull the opinions of the community, she said. Another parent who came to the meeting was Tracy Purser. She has four children through all levels of the school district – elementary, junior high, and high school. Purser said she came to the meeting because I just wanted to find out what they wanted to do. Things have got to change. Purser said, We need to feel like we’re being heard. “