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Congressman schooled on construction project

From the left, Principal Dwight Lundstrom, U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, Project Manager Mitch Romero, Superintendent Rick Schulte and Oak Harbor school board President Pete Hunt tour the new Student Union Building.  - Liz Burlingame/Whidbey News-Times
From the left, Principal Dwight Lundstrom, U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, Project Manager Mitch Romero, Superintendent Rick Schulte and Oak Harbor school board President Pete Hunt tour the new Student Union Building.
— image credit: Liz Burlingame/Whidbey News-Times

In a visit to Oak Harbor last week, U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen saw work is moving right along on the multi-million dollar modernization project at the high school.

Economic recovery is a top-shelf issue for the Second District congressman, and he’s following projects that create jobs or use stimulus dollars.

“The community is going to love it,” Larsen said of the $74 million modernization.

The Oak Harbor school board, superintendent, principal and project manager led Larsen through the site Nov. 13. Donning white hard hats, they walked across the newly-paved entrance to the Student Union Building. The facility will house music rooms, a cafeteria and a stage and auditorium. It’s slated for completion Nov. 30.

Larsen questioned the group about green building standards, as the high school is the first in the state to be certified under the “Sustainable Schools Protocol.” It’s a new requirement to qualify for state matching funds.

The high school will soon contain energy-efficient boilers, computer-controlled air exchange and floor-based air flow.

Education leaders also used their time with the congressmen to discuss tough issues in Oak Harbor, such as the No Child Left Behind Act.

In September, 165 children switched schools after two Oak Harbor elementary schools were placed on a school improvement list. Crescent Harbor and Olympic View Elementary joined a fast-growing list of Washington schools (about 60 percent) that did not meet the rising goals of the No Child Left Behind Act, which requires that 100 percent of students pass reading and math tests by 2014.

The district was required to allow parents to move their kids to a school that did meet test goals, and fund the transportation.

“It was the high performing kids who moved, which aggravates the situation,” Superintendent Rick Schulte told Larsen.

While they stand behind the social justice of NCLB, Schulte said the district wants to shift how the state measures progress.

“No one thinks 100 percent by 2014 is an achievable goal. It’s like saying there is no crime or no cancer,” Schulte said.

Larsen agreed to take a closer look at the issue. He will also look into advocating for more Title I funds, which target schools with high percentages of children from low-income families, and those with disabilities.

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