Survey results show South Whidbey residents largely support Langley Middle School transforming into a community center.
The majority of the 523 people who took the survey administered by the South Whidbey School District said they would “definitely” participate in activities and programs if the closed campus were to become a community center, according to Gail LaVassar, South Whidbey School District Community Resources Coordinator.
“People are happy and excited about the possibilities,” LaVassar said.
A fitness facility was at the top of the list for amenities people wanted to use, followed by meeting and event rooms, a WiFi center and event spaces for rent. Other ideas carrying weight include a coffee/smoothie/snack bar, artist and studio space, an indoor playground, sports court, a children’s museum, game room and a commercial kitchen.
The most desired programs were adult fitness classes, educational classes for all ages, arts and crafts space and cooking clubs.
The South Whidbey School Board voted to close the campus in January to save money in operating costs and avoid cutting teachers. The board maintained that it will not sell the building and prompted the district to look into ways for how to use the building now that it is vacant. A survey was developed to gauge the level of interest for a community center and its potential for use.
Superintendent Jo Moccia said results from the survey shows people want to use the space for activities, while also creating opportunities for the arts, fitness activities and other assorted areas.
“There’s a lot of interest in renting the space,” Moccia said.
“The support for a community center is overwhelmingly positive and supportive,” LaVassar added.
Langley Mayor Tim Callison said the community center presents several intriguing possibilities from the city’s perspective, depending on the direction school leaders decide to pursue. His hopes and wishes are that the center represent an intersection between innovation and recreation, and that the arts are included.
LaVassar said art programs and studios were of “high interest to community members of all ages.”
The Island Historical Society, Island Dance, the Whidbey Children’s Theater and the South Whidbey Parks and Recreation District are among the only organizations which currently use the facilities. The Island County Historical Society is setting up its new Langley Archive and Research Center in the school, while Island Dance rents a studio in the school’s old library. The Parks and Recreation District utilizes the school’s gyms for its athletic programs is setting up its new Langley Archive and Research Center in the school.
Moccia said the district has also been in talks with the Northwest Cultural Language Center based in Langley, as well as Cary Jurriaans of the Whidbey Fine Art Studio. She said that the process moving forward will be determining which organizations are serious about pursuing an opportunity at the middle school, and which of the possibilities outlined in the survey will move forward.
LaVassar will report the survey’s results to the board at its regular monthly meeting in September.
“We’ve got draft leases that we’re going to start to work on in house,” Moccia said. “We could be so lucky as to have occupants by Oct. 1. That’s a lofty goal but that would be the hope.”