Stevens upgrade switches gears

Inflation, construction costs push different design

PORT ANGELES — The Port Angeles School District is nearing the start of the first phase of the upgrade of Stevens Middle School, Superintendent Marty Brewer told the board of directors at Port Angeles High School.

“The schematic design is coming along very well,” Brewer said on May 23. “The details of the building are not there yet, but we’re looking at a new instruction wing that will be a three-story facility that will house all of our core academics. We’ll also do a full remodel of both gymnasiums.”

Preliminary architectural drawings and concepts for the site and floor plans are nearly complete, but the design and scope of the remodel have changed since voters in February 2020 approved a capital levy, 54.35 percent to 45.65 percent.

“When it passed, we had a cost estimate of $52 million to build a whole new Stevens Middle School,” Brewer said. “But with inflation, construction costs going through the roof in the past three years, we have had an increase of 35 percent and we had only budgeted about 4 percent annually.”

An increase in School Construction Assistance Program (SCAP) funding approved by the state Legislature as part of the supplemental budget in March will ease some of the effects of inflation by boosting the amount available to the school district, from about $18 million to $26 million. That money is what will enable the district to renovate the gymnasiums, Brewer said.

Initially, the school district planned to renovate Stevens Middle School and construct a new sixth-grade wing. However, after an engineering report determined it would cost $3 million to $5 million to seismically retrofit the foundation, the district went in a different direction and will build a new building for a lower cost.

Once all of the capital levy funds are collected in 2025, construction on the new school can begin.

“We are on track and on budget and on pace to open for the 2027-28 school year,” Brewer said.

The plan is for the schematic design to be shared with the board at its next meeting on June 13 at Lincoln Center.

Students from five career and technical education program clubs at Port Angeles High School made presentations to the board about their activities and achievements. Represented were DECA, Future Business Leaders of America, Future Health Professionals, National Reserve Office Training Corps and the Technology Student Association.

CTE programs focus on teaching students specific hands-on, real-world skills that prepare them for the workforce. The school district has among the most robust CTE offerings in the state, Brewer said.

District enrollment is up 19 full-time students from April, with 21 new Seaview Academy students accounting for most of the increase, Business and Operations Director Kira Acker said. The district’s online education program that is available to K-12 students from around the state grew from 177 students in September to 303 in May.

The number of students qualifying for special education also continued to rise, Acker reported, from 624 in September to 681 in May. About 20 percent of district students receive special education services. However, the state caps funding at 16 percent. The mismatch has squeezed the district’s budget, as well as the budgets of other districts in Washington.

“It’s an increase in expenses but a decrease in funding,” Acker said.

Lobbying the Legislature to fully fund special education for support services like instructional aides and speech therapy has been a district priority.

Other news from the meeting:

• The board approved a revision of the 2023-24 school calendar that would allow staff and students to attend the senior parade on Friday, June 14, by moving its start time at Ediz Hook from to 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.

June 14 had been the last day of the academic year with a half-day of classes until the paraeducator strike closed schools for five days and pushed the last day of school to June 24.

The 3 p.m. parade will now start after a full day of classes has ended. Graduation will still be held at 7 p.m. June 14 at Civic Field.

• The school district reached a tentative agreement with the Teamsters, who represent building, grounds and bus maintenance workers. The board will vote on the contract at its June 13 meeting. When the collective bargaining agreement with the Teamsters is signed, the Port Angeles Activity Advisors Association, which represents coaches, will be the only bargaining unit which does not have an agreement with the district.

• Port Angeles High School seniors Reid Schmidt and Yau Fu were honored as the district’s students of the month. Fu and Lincoln High School senior Rayin Blewett were recognized for serving as student representatives on the board of directors.

• Acker submitted her resignation effective June 30 to become executive director of finance for the Tumwater School District. Before she arrived in Port Angeles in January 2019, Acker was director of business services for the South Kitsap School District in Port Orchard.

Acker said she is looking forward to moving back to the area where she grew up and being closer to family.

________

Reporter Paula Hunt can be reached by email at paula.hunt@peninsulanews.us.

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