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Coupeville school bond set

Get ready, Coupeville class of 2007. You could be the first class to graduate from a brand new high school.

The Coupeville School Board Monday set May 18 as the day to host a $22.8 million bond election to finance school renovations and upgrades, including a new high school.

If voters approve the tax levy, property owners would pay an additional $1.35 per thousand in school taxes annually. The goal, according to Coupeville Schools Superintendent Bill Myhr, is to keep the school tax rate level. The bond has an expected life of 18 years.

For high school students, the project would mean no more toilets that don’t work, ceiling tiles falling in the gym nor cramped classrooms. Middle school students will see smooth hallways, improved school access and a better place to meet and eat lunch. Grade school students will finally have a covered outdoor play area, safe playground and a more secure building.

All schools will see an upgraded technology infrastructure, increased security and a better learning environment, according to the school board plan.

“I’ve talked to a lot of people,” Myhr said, “and I think they recognize it’s time to replace our pre-World War II high school.”

A community-based design review team, working with architect Jack Hutteball, has recommended a number of projects at all three schools. The costliest item would be a new high school, which would be an approximate 27,000 square feet increase over the present 67,300 square feet campus, at a cost of $19.82 million.

In a position paper finalized Monday, the school board set three priority levels for the project, in order of importance.

“We recognize there may not be enough money, in spite of the planning,” board member Kathy Anderson said. She noted that the items listed in each priority level are of equal weight.

Priority level one includes:

* Construct a new two-story high school building on the athletic fields behind the middle school, with classrooms for up to 30 students and nine computer stations, additional science classrooms, new vocational/technical and art classrooms, a new commons/cafeteria and music rooms for middle and high school use, and an improved roof for the existing high school gym.

Construct a physical education/health/classroom/locker room facility to replace the small gym and locker rooms in the current high school building.

When new high school is completed, remove current high school building and two separate buildings to the south.

Repair and improve portions of the elementary school roof and damaged walls.

Upgrade technology to ensure that all district facilities are appropriately networked for effective learning, instruction and communication.

Increase security by installing cameras in all schools.

Upgrade elementary school playground equipment and materials.

Second level priorities are listed as:

* Repair, reconfigure and/or renovate the middle school hallway flooring, performing arts center, music room, library, current food service area and the elementary school entrance.

Construct a covered play area on the elementary school playground.

Renovate the high school annex as office space.

Third level priorities are:

* Develop replacement baseball and softball fields on the 22 acres owned by the district, and address safety issues at Mickey Clark field by resurfacing the track and upgrading the wiring for lights.

Resurface the high school gym parking lot and the parking lot at the new athletic field.

Complete the remaining payments for the 22-acre property purchased in 2000.

While the board was in agreement on level one priorities, there was quite a bit of discussion regarding the covered play area, and where it should be on the priority list, especially with a $342,950 price tag. It was originally listed at the third level.

Anderson, who has served on the Coupeville school board previously from 1975 to 1985, said replacement of the covered play area had been on the agenda since 1979, and was not a very high priority.

Board members Debbie Turner and Mitchell Howard initially agreed, saying it was not a “core” need.

“These are the choices we hope we don’t have to make,” Howard said.

Board member Carol Bishop said it was an easy decision for her: the children need a covered area as a matter of health and safety.

Myhr called it a “broken promise,” as the school board said they would build a covered play area when the old one, which was a roofed area between two buildings, was removed more than 20 years ago.

“I’ve heard that since I got here,” he said.

Glenda Merwine, Coupeville Elementary School principal, cautioned the board that parents would not take kindly to them considering the repair of the middle school hallway to be a higher priority than the welfare of “their babies.”

“I get many phone calls from parents of wet kids saying, ‘what were you thinking?’,” she said. “They look like little drowned rats.”

She said the school doesn’t do as many indoor recesses during foul weather as it should because it takes more adults patrolling the halls.

Her impassioned plea swayed the board, which moved the project to the second priority level.

Myhr said it was also an equity issue, as they wanted the school renovations to have “something for everyone.”

In addition to the bond request for $22,860,585 million, Myhr said they expect to receive a 23 percent match from state school construction funds, for approximately $900,000.

He said it was an important point that the school board intends to hold these funds in a capital projects reserve account to be used only if needed to complete the identified projects, or address unanticipated or emergency facility needs.

“At the end of three years, following completion of construction, any unused funds will be rolled back to the community’s taxpayers,” the position reads. In other words, it would be used to pay the bond off early.

If the bond passes, Myhr said a team will begin working on education specifications, the “details,” such as size and number of desks and room design based on program needs. Construction could begin next spring, and be completed by fall of 2006 or 2007.

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

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