What’s wrong with OHHS?

During a heavy rain, water flows from the career and technical buildings at Oak Harbor High School down a slope and into a corridor separating the cafeteria from a classroom building.

The small drain in the middle of the corridor isn’t nearly big enough to handle all the water and it backs up into the cafeteria.

Experience has taught staff to have several sandbags always ready to place at the entryways and stem the flow of water.

The soggy corridor is one of numerous things that would be fixed if voters approved a bond next spring to fund renovation of the high school.

The public got to see the condition of the high school and hear about an early bond estimate during a public hearing Monday at the high school. The event consisted of a self-guided tour, a public hearing and free chili for those who gave up dinner time to attend the meeting.

Preliminary figures show that it would cost nearly $70 million to renovate the high school. That amount would be broken up into a $49.91 million bond and $20 million in state matching money.

If the just-approved stadium tax rate and the renovation bond tax rate are combined, then taxpayers should see a maximum increase of $1 per 1,000 assessed property value, school officials say.

Should voters approve the bond, which has to pass by a 60 percent supermajority, then an additional 35,000 square feet would be added to the high school. It would be big enough to house approximately 1,800 students.

The Oak Harbor School Board is expected to make a final decision on the amount of the bond and the date it runs in January.

Rick Schulte, superintendent of the Oak Harbor School District, said the proposed bond is larger than the $45 million bond voters rejected in 2003, but won’t do as much as the previous one.

The new proposal eliminates demolition and replacement of C and D wings, construction of a performing arts center, and the partial demolition of A wing. Instead, the wings that would have been demolished will be gutted and renovated. If the 2003 bond proposal, minus the stadium portion, ran today, then voters would have to consider a $65.58 million bond. Inflation has skyrocketed in the construction industry.

During the hearing, where more than 100 people attended, Schulte was asked if it would be cheaper to replace the high school than renovate it. Schulte said the Stanwood School District is trying to build a $113 million high school and a new high school in Lake Stevens could costs between $65 million and $90 million.

The corridor between the cafeteria and the classroom isn’t the only place employees have to deal with standing rainwater. A similar problem exists at the Fieldhouse and the roof of D-wing.

In addition to the water problems, the art room, weight rooms and shop classes aren’t big enough.

“There just isn’t enough room for the kids to do what they need to do,” Principal Dwight Lundstrom said during the public hearing.

The proposed bond would also enlarge hallways and expand smaller classrooms that cramp students.

“You have to be creative with your seating,” said social studies teacher James Crouch. He also pointed out that the doors open out into the narrow hallways, creating a safety hazard for students between classes. Although he has taught at the high school for several years, this is the first year he’s had a classroom. He previously had a cart for his teaching materials which he rolled from class to class.

One of the more annoying features of Oak Harbor High School is the aggregate floor which looks like glazed gravel. Lundstrom said that when carts roll over the bumpy floor it makes a noise as loud as a chainsaw.

“Every time we roll something around here, you disturb a class,” Lundstrom said.

The renovation would replace the heating, electrical and plumbing systems and provide natural lighting into windowless classrooms, which is something Lundstrom said will improve the learning environment.

There are also several design flaws in the high school in addition to the drainage problems. An accordion wall, which is supposed to provide a more intimate environment for performances in Parker Hall, has never worked. Shortly after the school construction was complete in 1974, the roof settled preventing the wall from being moved.

Schulte said the high school was built during a time when schools were built as fast and as cheaply as possible. The schools were needed to house the influx of baby boomers that were entering high school.

He said that situation accounted for the flat roofs, outdoor walkways and thin walls at the high school.

Oak Harbor school officials are still gaining community input for a spring renovation bond election. Schulte said he was pleased of the turnout Monday evening considering it was a holiday week.

The public will have another chance to tour the high school, comment on the renovation plans and enjoy some free chili. That takes place Wednesday, Nov. 30 beginning at 5 p.m. with self guided tours and a public hearing beginning at 6:30 p.m.

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