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New Coupeville high school shrinks

Because costs for a new high school in Coupeville inflated, the Coupeville School Board decided to shrink the school Monday evening to save money.

The school board reduced the size of the high school by 3,775 square feet. That reduction reduces costs by approximately $870,000.

The cuts include reducing the auxiliary gym by 1,200 square feet and eliminating space for special education programs and a computer lab. Those will remain in the Annex Building.

Other cuts to the new school include eliminating the student store and some storage space.

A list of 10 potential cuts was presented to both the school board and the Educational Specifications Committee Monday. Ultimately, the board decided to make cuts that the Ed Spec committee said would be the easiest to make.

Board members Mitchell Howard, Kathleen Anderson, Don Sherman, Deborah Turner and Carol Bishop unanimously approved the cuts.

“We felt we needed to honor their decisions and we felt they needed a voice in the process,” said Superintendent Bill Myhr. Ten members of the Ed Spec committee attended the meeting to examine potential cuts. Those members were Anderson, Howard, Tom Eller, Chic Merwine, Phyllis Textor, Jill Usher, Guy Whittaker, Janet Wodjenski, Myhr and Gary Goltz.

School district officials had been reeling over the past several weeks since they discovered inflation is rapidly increasing the cost of construction materials. Officials had originally calculated a 3 percent inflation rate. However, in the months since that calculation was made, the rate climbed to approximately 12 percent.

Inflation is the reason high school costs climbed to approximately $23 million, which is $3 million more than expected.

Voters approved a $22.8 million bond last May to fund construction of the high school and a variety of other projects including a covered play area at the elementary school, a new baseball field and upgrades at the middle school and high school.

With the cuts to the high school, the extra money frees up the school district to undertake other high priority projects including new playground equipment at the elementary school.

Because the high school would use up the majority of the bond dollars, officials will wait on other projects until the high school bid is complete and the school district knows exactly how much it will receive in state matching money.

The Coupeville School District is estimating it will receive an additional $2 million in state matching money. However, the district won’t receive that money until high school construction is complete.

“The state doesn’t pay their share until we’ve spent all our money,” school board member Kathleen Anderson said during the meeting.

Goltz said there are too many unanswered questions about the construction amount, inflation and from state funding to commit to other projects.

“We’re just trying to be conservative with community money,” Goltz said.

He added that the other projects will be addressed when he finds out how much money is available.

The board also made a commitment to complete all projects included in the bond proposal.

“This was a bond that promised all our populations some relief,” Myhr said.

With the cuts approved Monday evening, officials can go about designing the new facility, a process that will be complete by fall 2005.

During that time, school district officials have to decide how to accommodate the baseball and softball teams. The new high school will be built on the current baseball field.

Plans originally called for a new soccer and baseball facility to be built on school district property on Terry Road. However, funding concerns put the $840,000 project on hold.

Myhr said he started talking with officials from Island County and from the Oak Harbor School District to find alternate sites for the team.

Goltz said delaying the baseball field does free up money that can be used to build a temporary field. That site could then be converted to a permanent facility at a later date.

Goltz said he didn’t know how such a field would be complete. He has to talk with Island County officials before making any decisions.

“We sure hope the county will step up and help a community in a time of need,” Goltz said.

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