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UPDATE | SWHS update for LMS move will cost millions

The drawing above is a conceptual design for changes proposed at South Whidbey High School. The areas in blue represent new additions; the row of classrooms designated for middle school students is on the right, or north, part of the campus. - Drawing courtesy of TCF Architecture
The drawing above is a conceptual design for changes proposed at South Whidbey High School. The areas in blue represent new additions; the row of classrooms designated for middle school students is on the right, or north, part of the campus.
— image credit: Drawing courtesy of TCF Architecture

LANGLEY — It may cost about $24 million to get South Whidbey High School ready to receive middle school students by September 2012.

And that’s just for starters.

Architect Brian Fitzgerald of TCF Architecture presented the school district consolidation committee with a conceptual design wish list proposal totaling $43.3 million on Wednesday. That number includes such amenities as artificial turf and a new track surface for the sports fields (roughly $8 million), a greenhouse ($91,000), portable bleachers ($30,000), two covered tennis courts ($583,200) and an exterior climbing wall ($5,000).

Whether those items make the final cut is up to the committee, which is charged with making recommendations to District Superintendent Fred McCarthy on the movement of grades six, seven and eight to the high school campus. The middle school will operate as a separate entity with a middle school philosophy and instructional program co-located on the high school campus.

Last June, a large-scale facilities report found it would take $18 million to $25 million to modernize the 75-year-old Langley Middle School.

That finding, and continuing student population declines, prompted the school board to order the middle school closed.

“This was the first look at the price and size of what everyone wants,” McCarthy said. “Brian has given us multiple options to improve the school and get ready for the move in two years.”

Fitzgerald grouped the costs for new academic spaces at $10.9 million, remodeled and upgraded current areas of the high school at $1.7 million, a new middle school gym and field house at $7.9 million, and another $3.5 million for walkways, landscaping and other site-related items.

“All the figures include ‘soft costs’ which are defined as state sales taxes, surveying, permits, legal fees, a construction manager, furnishings, demolition and clearing, stormwater and drainage,” Fitzgerald said.

He added that the committee must balance what is needed versus what the community can afford.

The state budget crunch and declining enrollment have forced the issue. The district estimates the combined enrollment for both the middle and high schools to drop from 939 this year to approximately 715 by 2015.

On May 18, the school district will ask voters to approve a long-term bond — typically 20 years, but that hasn’t been decided — to cover the cost of renovation and construction at the high school. Officials expect the final numbers to be quite different than those offered this week.

“The plan presented is nowhere near the finished product,” McCarthy noted. “The challenge for the committee is to bring the plan down to the reality of what the community can support, given the tough economic times.”

Fitzgerald, principal architect for TCF Architecture, also showed conceptual design drawings of what the new additions would look like at a meeting this week with the district’s consolidation committee.

“There are separate entries for both the high school and middle school,” he said. “It was clear that both the committee and public wanted the middle-schoolers to maintain their sense of identity in separate facilities.”

The plan calls for current classrooms to be refitted and new ones added along the north side of the high school campus.

A new parking lot, courtyard, walkways, a sports field house and middle school gym are also on the table, part of the overall package that could cost $24 million.

Committee members will now take the list and assign a priority number from one to three to portions of the plan, noting whether the item is absolutely essential to middle school students and programs, highly desirable, or something that would be nice to have.

They can also elect to subtract, add or modify parts of the proposal.

“Since we don’t know yet what the community will support financially, we have to come up with a realistic set of priorities,” said Tom Sage, a middle school teacher and committee member. “Not an easy task, but that’s what we’re here for.”

The committee will make its initial presentation to the school board at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 13 at the elementary school.

Jeff VanDerford can be reached at 221-5300 or jvanderford@southwhidbeyrecord.com.

THE COMMITTEE

South Whidbey School District restructuring committee facilitators are Mike Johnson and Jerry Millhon. Members include school principals Rob Prosch and Rod Merrell; teachers Tom Sage, Erik Jokinen, Jay Freundlich, Nancy Ricketts and Charlie Davies; parents Kathleen Landel, Paul Shimada, John Riley and Julie Buktenika; custodian Linda Alexander; community member Mark Racicot and architect Brian Fitzgerald of TCF Architecture.

Community Events, April 2014

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