Schools shuffled in new plan to replace buildings

Some schools would move to new locations in the school district’s plan for five replacements.

A few schools would be moved to new locations in Oak Harbor as part of a project to replace five aging schools and the district’s transportation center, project leaders said during a community meeting last Wednesday.

Oak Harbor Public Schools was recently awarded a $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Defense’s program for communities whose populations have been impacted by the military. The money will be used for planning and design efforts to present a bond package that Superintendent Dr. Lance Gibbon said could be on the February 2022 ballot.

Crescent Harbor Elementary and the HomeConnection/Hand-in-Hand Early Learning Center are on military property and would be eligible for an 80 percent match from the federal government. The two schools must remain on Navy property, but the early learning center may move to a different location.

Gibbon said that in a study of 160 schools on military installations, the two in Oak Harbor were among the 11 worst schools in terms of condition and capacity. The good news is that the ranking means the two schools would be prioritized for funding, he said.

Oak Harbor Elementary and Oak Harbor Intermediate could be eligible for a 20 percent state match in funding. The district’s transportation center could receive up to 70 percent state match funding because it also services Coupeville’s school buses. Olympic View Elementary is the only building that may not be eligible for match funding.

“This is an unprecedented amount of outside funding available to Oak Harbor in the neighborhood of $110-120 million,” Gibbon said.

Planning is still in the early stages, but principal-in-charge for the project from NAC Architecture, Philip Riedel, said the team has new locations in mind for a few of the buildings.

Oak Harbor Elementary would be moved to the school district’s property at Fort Nugent Park. The district owns part of the park near the soccer fields; the city owns the land near the playground. Reidel said the new school would take up less than half of the fields on district property. Gibbon said a two-story design would minimize the footprint.

The early learning center would be moved to the north side of the fields at the current Olympic View Elementary location, which is still on Navy property. Olympic View Elementary would be moved to the current Oak Harbor Elementary location. The transportation center would be moved to where Olympic View Elementary is currently.

Crescent Harbor Elementary and Oak Harbor Intermediate would be rebuilt in their current places.

Oak Harbor Elementary would be replaced first, followed by the early learning center, Crescent Harbor Elementary, Olympic View Elementary, Oak Harbor Intermediate and finally the transportation center. Construction would be staggered so students can be moved around as capacity grows.

“It’s a bit of shell game in terms of moving people around,” Reidel said.

Safety was one of the biggest concerns people shared during the meeting.

“Those great, big windows can look beautiful but leaves our kids very vulnerable to some safety concerns in this day and age,” said Dorothy Day.

Accessibility was also a concern. Gibbon said there are more than 1,000 students with disabilities in the school district right now. One parent whose child has a disability said she would like to see all classrooms designed with access in mind.

Other concerns included having one main builidng per school, room for growth, classrooms built for group work and hands-on lessons and outdoor classes.

The school district will also be running a levy this February to pay for things like athletics, libraries and learning programs. The levy is a replacement levy. The bond for the new buildings would go to voters in 2022 and go into effect when the current bond to pay for Oak Harbor High School expires. Gibbon said the district would try to keep the new bond rate the same as the current one.

The next community meeting is planned for the spring.