Coupeville school upgrade ideas aired

How do you build a high school that will serve students now and 40 years into the future, and that makes the best use of taxpayers’ money?

The 20-plus member Coupeville School District design team has been wrestling with those questions and many others over the past few months as they looked at options for upgrading Coupeville schools.

They will present their proposals to the community in two meetings next week, in preparation for a bond election expected to be held in March of 2004.

The group is recommending a school renovation which would include construction of a new high school and an auxiliary gym; converting the existing high school annex into the district office and conference area; building a covered play area at the elementary school and updating the playground; repairing roofs and other damaged facilities; and implementing technology upgrades. They have set a tentative $22 million price tag for the project.

The team looked at several options to address the state of the high school, which an architect’s survey in August found needed either a major overhaul, or to be torn down completely.

The design team favored the latter option, and building a new high school behind the middle school.

Pope Awe, Coupeville Schools director of operations, said the design team weighed the pros and cons carefully before making their decision.

“The driving factor was that upgrades to the high school would be too costly,” he said. “It is more feasible to build a new school.”

The design team did not focus on what the new school would look like so much as where it would best fit. Building off-site was also deemed too expensive, leaving the field behind the middle school as the preferred location. The new building would be approximately 69,000 square feet, with another 17,000 square feet for modification of the annex.

“The design team looked at the size and scope of the project,” Awe said. Other factors considered were fitting a new structure in with the historical aspect of the area, creating efficient technology systems and storage areas, and centralization of mechanical systems.

While the high school is the big ticket item, the elementary school playground is no less in need of renovation.

A recent health and safety inspection by the Island County Health Department found many safety hazards on the playground, including insufficient fall absorbing material around the play structure, exposed bolts in the play structure which children could get poked with or hung up on, openings large enough for a child’s head to get stuck in, and insufficient safety zones around adjacent play equipment.

The survey also found problems at the newest building, the middle school. The tile floor in several hallways has cracked and lifted, possibly due to moisture seeping up from the ground.

Coupeville Schools Superintendent Bill Myhr was unavailable for comment this week, but he has said previously that the district would determine what the community wanted and move forward from there.

Design meetings

next week

The design team will present their recommendations at a special school board meeting Tuesday, Dec. 9, at 7 p.m. in the Coupeville Elementary School library, and Wednesday, Dec. 10, starting with a tour of the high school at 6:30 p.m., followed by a community meeting at 7 p.m. in the Performing Arts Center.

You can reach News-Times reporter Marcie Miller at mmiller@whidbey or call 675-6611

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