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Public views plans for high school

Central Whidbey Island residents got a first-hand look at plans for a new high school that is expected to be complete in the summer of 2007.

Preliminary schematics show an “E” shaped complex with the current middle school comprising the first wing, a career/vocational education in another wing and a two-story high school classroom wing. A central corridor will connect all wings and provide access for all students to joint-use areas that include the library and commons.

Plans also call for construction of an auxiliary gym next to the main gym across the street.

Once complete, the new high school will have enough space to teach 400 students and provide the capability for future expansion. The new school is funded by a $22.8 million bond voters approved last May.

The public saw and commented on the early plans during a meeting Wednesday evening at the Coupeville Performing Arts Center.

Some residents had several safety concerns about students crossing South Main Street to attend physical education classes.

“To me that’s a safety issue and, in that design, safety is the last consideration,” said Coupeville resident Bob Brown, arguing that a walking bridge or a tunnel would improve safety.

Marc Gleason, an architect hired to design the high school, said the significant issue is at the intersection of South Main Street and Terry Road.

“The biggest safety concern was pulling students away from the intersection at Terry Road,” Gleason said.

In comments after the meeting, Construction Manager Gary Goltz said it would be difficult to install a tunnel because the soil conditions in the area would cause it to fill with water.

A bridge would cost the school district a minimum of $500,000 and such a project would draw aesthetic concerns from Coupeville and Ebey’s Landing National Historic Reserve.

Besides, students would be more likely to dash across the street than use a bridge, Goltz said.

The school district is considering installing a lighted crosswalk which provides a conspicuous way to better alert motorists of the crossing students. The town, however, would have to approve such plans.

Brown also suggested that school officials keep communicating with the county and the Washington State Department of Transportation since there are plans to renovate, and possibly expand, the Keystone ferry dock.

Other concerns folks had about construction plans lied within the new auxiliary gym that is tentatively set to be built adjacent of the current gym.

Some residents wanted assurances that setbacks will provide enough of a buffer to shield their homes from activities at the gym and adjoining athletic fields.

Others questioned how the new gym will work into the landscape within the Historic Reserve.

“You have to pay attention to outside the campus in terms of historical areas and historical homes,” said Rob Harbour, manager of Ebey’s Landing National Historic Reserve. He pointed out there is a historic home next door to the gym.

He recommended that school officials meet with the Design Review Board soon to begin sorting out any design details about the project. Meetings between the school district and the design board are expected to begin in March.

Coupeville Mayor Nancy Conard, who attended the meeting, said the town has only had preliminary discussions with the school about the new high school.

Approximately 30 people attended the meeting, which included a lengthy question and answer period. People also wrote comments that officials will sort through.

Goltz said the meeting went well and people provided useful comments.

Building designers also met with teachers, staff and students last week to gain further input.

The information gathered last week will help designers fine-tune the high school design. Residents will have another chance to comment on the high school plans during another public meeting scheduled for March 1 at the Performing Arts Center.

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