Plan proposed to move Bayview School to new campus

Bayview School Director David Pfeiffer discusses the state of the school with the school board, volunteer tutors, Superintendent Jo Moccia and staff during a school board site visit on Wednesday. - Ben Watanabe / The Record
Bayview School Director David Pfeiffer discusses the state of the school with the school board, volunteer tutors, Superintendent Jo Moccia and staff during a school board site visit on Wednesday.
— image credit: Ben Watanabe / The Record

BAYVIEW — Consolidation may be coming to the South Whidbey School District.

Only, an unexpected student group will move from the Bayview School to the South Whidbey Primary Campus. Instead of the scrapped plan to shutter Langley Middle School, the district superintendent told the school board she’d like to move the alternative students, have them meet under the same roof as Whidbey Island Academy students, and close the 100-year-old Bayview building.

While the suggestion caught some of the school board members off guard, the plan has been a conversation topic between Moccia and David Pfeiffer, the director of the alternative school.

“To me, at this point David has done a lot of work with the site council,” Moccia said. “He and I have talked a lot about this. I totally support district-wide alternative learning at one campus.”

Details about the costs, possible savings, impacts on teachers and when the move would begin will be presented in April. By September, however, Moccia said the 40-or-so Bayview School students would attend classes in the half-occupied South Whidbey Primary Campus. The primary school used to have kindergarten through second grade classes until it was consolidated with the South Whidbey Intermediate School to create South Whidbey Elementary School, a K-5 facility. Now, the primary campus houses Whidbey Island Academy, a homeschool partnership.

“Are you willing to allow the superintendent to make this move by September?” Moccia asked the board. “This is not, to me, to say it politely, we don’t need to spend months and months deciding this. This is a well-thought out process that impacts people that David (Pfeiffer) has been working with.”

While Moccia was prepared to move forward with the decision, some board members requested time to relay their questions to the superintendent’s office.

“We’re not going to decide this tonight,” said Board Member Fred O’Neal.

“I want to make sure something does not get overlooked in this.”

Earlier on Wednesday, the school board visited Bayview School and met with Pfeiffer and four of the five certificated teachers (one had an excused absence). Some of the teachers said they felt alienated from their colleagues within the alternative school and at other campuses. The students are also limited by the aging facility, such as the inability to save computer files onto district servers, not having a Career Technical Education teacher and the absence of any exercise or fitness areas.

“(Students) don’t have access right now at Bayview to high school CTE courses or a business course. Technically they do, they can provide their own transportation to get there (South Whidbey High School),” Pfeiffer said.

“Even a small, carpeted gym like this (at the primary campus) is a real step up.”

One motivation behind the proposed relocation is to reduce the school district’s “footprint” on South Whidbey. There are too many buildings and too few students, said Moccia, who reiterated that one of her primary charges when she was hired in July 2011 was to limit how much unused space the South Whidbey School District owns.

One hope shared by the teachers was to minimize how much time they spend commuting between positions, as all five Bayview teachers have other obligations at the elementary, middle and high schools. Moccia and Pfeiffer assured the school board that Bayview’s staff supported the idea.

“The Bayview staff asked to meet with me probably two months ago to propose this very issue,” Moccia said.

The school district’s business director, Dan Poolman, has projected about 70 fewer students enrolled for next year. That means less money, though the schools will likely need the same number of teachers. Facing another round of teacher layoffs, Moccia said alternative education may be an area of growth for South Whidbey schools.

“The whole point of this is our own growth, as well,” Moccia said. “This could be that incubator that we’re looking for in flexibility in our planning.”

Pfeiffer used a chart to illustrate how the primary campus best suits Bayview School’s needs. The three sites considered were the primary campus, Langley Middle School and Bayview School. A board member questioned Pfeiffer about the exclusion of the high school as a viable relocation site. The short answer is the high school was not considered.

“So many of our students come from the high school, we felt that the Bayview School kids having their own identity is so important,” Pfeiffer said.

Other questions the board raised during the meeting were about the primary campus’ capacity limits, a short-term plan, a possible long-range plan, and what happens to Bayview School if it’s vacated.

The next school board meeting is a workshop scheduled for at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 11 in the board room, 5476 S. Maxwelton Road in Langley.

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