District asks community to help design future of North Kitsap schools

"Series of meetings planned to gather ideas, reactions. "

“POULSBO – For several months, a task force has been trying to answer three questions – what should North Kitsap schools look like in a year? In five years? In 10? And those questions led to more questions. What renovations need to be done during that time? What else might need to be changed as our population increases? Will North Kitsap students attend elementary school from grades K-5, or K-6? Will a new secondary school be built in Kingston? The task force has developed a set of recommendations and a vision for the future. Now, the district is asking the community to hear those recommendations and contribute their own ideas and suggestions for North Kitsap’s future school facilities at a series of community meetings. The North Kitsap School Board will use all of this task force and community input to develop a plan for facilities to meet the future needs of NK students. This process could lead to development of a bond request to finance needed renovations or new construction. History of the project In March, a task force of community members assembled to talk about the future of facilities in the district. The task force members were chosen to represent a cross-section of the community. There were parents and businesspeople, educators and architects. The group had more than 20 members, and most of the meetings were attended by both Terry Heindl, the district’s assistant superintendent of finance, and Gene Medina, the NKSD superintendent. A previous task force which met in 1998 had listened to recommendations made by the district’s architects and planners. This year’s task force group had a critical difference-they developed recommendations of their own. They reviewed the reports by the previous task force and looked at piles of demographic studies and information about each school. Some members went out to the schools to personally see what repairs needed to be made. Some members questioned the information they had received. For example, while enrollment in the district is projected to decline, several group members wondered if that would happen if a passenger-only ferry finally arrived in Kingston, or several housing developments slated for that area were to be built on a different schedule. After months of review, the task force arrived at several conclusions, some of which were radically different than those made by the previous task force. *Instead of a K-6 alignment, the group members recommended the district go to a K-5 alignment. K-5 students would attend elementary schools, 6-8 would attend middle schools, and 9-12 would attend schools.This would add more students to the middle schools but create more room at the elementary schools. *A new high school should be built in Kingston. This, the task force members said, would help solve several problems. It would relieve the crowding at the high school, which is already stuffed with students. It would anticipate possible growth in the north end. And it would cause less stress on the district’s transportation by eliminating the need to bus high school students in from the north end. *The task force also recommended that the district expand multiple-use of facilities. With the costs of building and maintenance, they said, it just isn’t smart to have buildings be essentially unused for three months a year. Other uses should be made of classrooms when students aren’t using them-such as allowing adults take classes. Make school libraries open to all – these weren’t specific recommendations necessarily, but examples of what multiple-use facilities could be like. *The task force also recommended renovations to schools in the district, including Poulsbo, Suquamish, and Pearson Elementary, and Poulsbo Junior High and North Kitsap High School. Also on their renovation list was the community pool, which is badly in need of work. The recommendations made by the task force, if adopted, have an estimated total cost of about $60 million. But that number could change as projects are budgeted or if the projects within the bond are changed. The district would also receive about $18 million in state matching money to help pay the bill. After the community responds to the task force’s ideas and the board has an opportunity to review all the information, the school district may decide to run a bond later then anticipated, or maybe even not to run one at all, according to Medina. To help gather reactions to the plan, the district has sent out surveys to parents, staff, and community members. The surveys may also be filled out on the school district’s web site at www.nksd.wednet.edu/facilities. More information is also available at that site. Surveys may also be picked up at the district’s headquarters at 18360 Caldart Avenue Northeast in Poulsbo. There will also be several meetings to address the needs of each school. See the related article on this page for that schedule. Members of the North Kitsap School Board will be present at every meeting. For more information on the meetings, call the district’s community relations officer, Kim Turk, at 779-8703. “

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