News

NKSD has cash to spend, but on what?

t Two hearings bring out pleas

and suggestions.

KINGSTON —?Any time a significant sum of money is up for allocation everybody wants a slice of the pie. Unfortunately, not everybody’s wish list will come to fruition, as financial resources can only be stretched so far and decisions must be made.

That’s the situation in which the North Kitsap School District finds itself.

In 2001 voters approved a bond for approximately $60.1 million so the district could renovate North Kitsap High; build Kingston High; put a new roof on Wolfle Elementary; and upgrade Spectrum Community School, the community auditorium and swimming pool, and Pearson, Poulsbo and Suquamish elementary schools. After state matching funds and interest came in, the bond totaled nearly $100 million.

Now, with nearly all the construction and renovation projects finished and the outstanding projects nearing completion, there’s a surplus of approximately $1.2 million.

The Capital Facilities Advisory Committee, which formed in 2001 to closely monitor the progress of the bond, needs help determining how those dollars should be spent.

To get an answer, NKSD hosted two capital programs public meetings, on Tuesday at KHS and on Wednesday at NKHS.

Bond dollars are earmarked solely for construction or renovation projects.

“Our main goal is to be in a position of talking to the public and letting them know we have a fund balance,” said Robin Shoemaker, NKSD director of capital programs. “We don’t want to be in a position of not taking advantage of the summer 2008 (construction) season. That’s why it’s important to communicate now with folks and get input.”

On Tuesday evening more than 50 people showed up at KHS and 12 individuals took the podium to voice their million-dollar requests. Topping the charts are getting six tennis courts at the high school and lights, covered bleachers, bathrooms and concessions for the athletic fields.

Proponents say getting courts and lights is essential if KHS students are to get the utmost experience out of their extra-curricular athletic endeavors.

“Kingston High School students are developing tremendous school spirit and the key component is their after-school extra-curricular activities,” said Ginny Bell, a KHS parent.

Currently, the 18 KHS tennis team members must practice at the two Kingston community courts one mile from the school. All Kingston tennis matches are played at North Kitsap and the district doesn’t provide transportation for practices or matches.

“We really need tennis courts here (Kingston),” said Vic Nelson NKHS head girls tennis coach. “They need to play on a home court so their friends and parents can come watch.”

Tennis courts are a sore spot at KHS because the courts were included in the original construction bid for the high school. However, Shoemaker said as construction commenced the district was faced with a budget shortfall. As a safety net, “value engineering,” allows the district to consider things within a construction project that could either be cut back or cut out to get the budget back in line. And the tennis courts were one such item.

“We cut those because they were more easily added later,” Shoemaker said. “We have a location for four tennis courts.”

Lights for Kingston fields is a hot topic because without lights, soccer and football games must be played in the afternoon or at North Kitsap Stadium. The district doesn’t provide transportation for games and parents can’t get off work in the afternoon to come watch.

“The kids have to see to play and one of the biggest problems is when it gets dark out there at 4 o’clock,” said Clint Boxman, who was representing the Kingston Rotary. “We’re using the lights as our number one deal and hopefully we might have lights soon.”

Similar to the courts, there’s a common conception that lights were a part of the original KHS construction bid. But that’s a misnomer.

“I think one of the things folks need to keep in mind is when plans started gelling for this school; lights, bleachers, bathrooms and concessions were never planned,” said board President Melanie Mohler after Tuesday’s meeting. “The idea was that we would have one district stadium, which is already existing up at North.”

The fleet of KHS bus drivers showed up in full force to plead a safety concern. Currently there’s only one way in and out of KHS and nearly 1,000 staff and students must filter through the narrow passage each day. Therefore, before and after school a traffic jam ensues and bus drivers are stuck doing a 10-to 15-minute circle just to get out of the mayhem, said driver Steve Swearingen.

“I’m here to ask that something be done to help fix the access problem in and out of Kingston High School,” Swearingen said. “Another way out of here as an emergency would be really important. If you tried to unload this school there would be a jam out there.”

Access to KHS is what grabbed Mohler’s attention.

“I think the transportation issue it pretty serious with this access road,” Mohler said.

On Wednesday night at NKHS, Shoemaker said the attendance was, “surprisingly much lower than Kingston.” But that didn’t mean there were fewer suggestions for divvying up the kitty.

North attendees don’t want the district to make any decisions or take on any more projects until the NKHS renovation is finished, which is slated for late 2008.

A few individuals requested funding be spent on improving the fields at Vinland Elementary for Little League soccer and baseball access. Tennis courts for KHS and resurfacing three courts at NKHS were suggested as well as the need for furniture in the portables at Poulsbo Middle School and playground fencing at Poulsbo Elementary.

“I think the suggestions that have been heard are all good,” Shoemaker said. “Nothing really was a surprise.”

While Shoemaker said the input has been helpful, the district has a sizable project suggestion of its own — Breidablik Elementary has a leaky roof.

Shoemaker said only individuals involved with maintenance and facilities have mentioned Breidablik’s roof as a need, but it’s now a top priority for the district. She estimates replacing the roof will cost upwards of half a million and said it’s practical to use a portion of the 1.2 million surplus to fund a project of that size, as the money required can’t be found anywhere else.

“The reason it has risen to the top is because it has some leak issues over the other schools,” Shoemaker said. “It’s a large sum of money that can’t be found with in maintenance money.”

Shoemaker said the CFAC met Thursday evening to discuss the public’s input from the two meetings. An update will be given to the school board at the April 24 meeting and a projects priority recommendation is tentatively set for a school board meeting in May. The final decision, be it to move ahead with select projects, to do nothing or to revisit the issue at a later date, will be decided by the board.

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