PORT ORCHARD — Should South Kitsap School District build a new high school? Should it opt instead to construct a new middle school and elementary facility? How about remodeling the existing South Kitsap High?
Or perhaps just sell the 57 acres the district owns on Old Clifton Road and use the proceeds elsewhere?
The questions posed in the South Kitsap High auditorium May 14 for the final SK 360 “Community Conversation” forum included those from administrators and staff, who came equipped with their own list for community members to discuss.
Perhaps it was the early evening record-high temperatures and sunny skies that contributed to a less-than-stellar turnout by South Kitsap community members — just under 100 — at the forum. But those who did attend had questions for administrators — and plenty of opinions to share.
The school district wrapped up its two-month series of community outreach sessions before deciding what, if any, levy or bond measure package they should to send to voters in the near future.
Superintendent Karst Brandsma asked people in attendance to ponder three questions prior to splitting the audience into small breakout groups for discussion:
— Do you think we need a second high school, or are we a one-high-school town?
— What are your thoughts on the 57 acres owned on Old Clifton Road?
— How do we continue to build trust within our community?
One of the three breakout groups was facilitated by Jay Rosapepe, the school district director of transportation and a Port Orchard city council member.
Shiela Granado, the registrar at Discovery Alternative High School, said she was uncertain about the notion that the district should consider selling the Old Clifton Road property.
“Would we be able to purchase 57 acres somewhere else?” Granado asked. “Probably not.”
She also raised the issue of social media as a means of communication between the community and the school district.
“Social media is where we’re going” as a society, Granado said. “But people can be influenced whether [the information] is true or not.”
Others in the group agreed that information communicated through social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter is relevant — along with the need to “push trolls to the side.”
John Richardson, president of the South Kitsap Education Association, said he believed the key to building trust between the school district and the South Kitsap community is “consistency and transparency.”
Richardson said: “We had to rebuild it in our own organization.”
He pointed to a move some years ago when the district pulled back from community relations initiatives because of budgetary constraints.
“It creates a vacuum when we shut down the community relations efforts. There needs to be constant communication with the public,” Richardson reminded the group.
One group session member stated that it would be instructive if the school district not only understood its own brand, but would also understand how the Port Orchard community defines itself.
“Students complain about crowded halls, but they’re super excited about all the classes offered.”
“It doesn’t matter to me whether we have one high school or two. Just do it right.”
“We absolutely need a second high school. A smaller high school would be better.”
“Kids can get lost here. Some need a smaller high school.”
Following the breakout and reporting sessions, Brandsma asked the audience to share their opinions of a series of questions on preferences for facilities bond packages, whether security in the schools is a top concern, how trusted the school district is in the community and other related issues.
Prior to the start of the session, small electronic fobs, or “clickers,” were handed out so that those in attendance could register their preferences to multi-choice questions.
Preliminary results were shared with the group following voting on each question.
South Kitsap educators scored highly for their instruction; the district leaders fared less favorably, however, when participants voted on how trusted the community viewed them.
The South Kitsap School District Board of Directors will meet in its session on May 23 to discuss outcomes from the community forum.