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Kingston residents vie for new school site

KINGSTON — As the North Kitsap School District readies its site plans for the Kingston High School, those plans are being questioned by Kingston residents.

On Wednesday night, several of those residents got to question district representatives in person.

Several district employees were on hand at Wednesday night’s Kingston Community Action Committee (KCAC) meeting at the Kingston Community Center.

After Robin Shoemaker, the district’s director of capital projects, gave a short presentation on the status of the site plans — which has been divided into three alternatives — several residents questioned Shoemaker, Supt. Gene Medina and site planner Eric Schmidt on the plans.

Although several subjects were broached, the most passionate appeal came from Kingston resident Jeff Owen, who — among others — has become concerned that the proposed location is so close to a decommissioned Nike missile site. Owen said other Nike sites elsewhere in the country have had serious environmental problems.

Schmidt said that the site in Kingston was inspected and worked on by the Army Corps of Engineers, then signed off on by the Department of Ecology.

The answer didn’t satisfy Owen, who said that similar sites have been found contaminated once more sophisticated tests were conducted.

“You have a problem and you must look into it before you put kids there,” he said at the meeting, adding later. “I would not consider putting a school on that place.”

Owen was not the only Kingston resident to share concerns.

Others brought up anxieties about the trail system that is planned to link the site with other nearby schools, including Gordon Elementary: Will all the trails hide vandalism or other bad behavior by the students, several residents asked.

“When my kids were going to school, the school had trouble patrolling the woods across the street,” said KCAC member-at-large Tom Waggoner.

Medina said the school has been working with the Sheriff’s office, the school security personnel and the School Resource Officer on the planning of the new site.

“We feel relatively comfortable that we have it covered,” he said.

Shoemaker was asked about a performing arts facility, most specifically by Waggoner, who said he believes that music and performing arts can be vital in keeping students interested in class.

“Folks have been experiencing a lot of frustration on that point,” said Shoemaker, who added that a full performing arts center, like the North Kitsap auditorium, was too expensive for the first phase of the Kingston High School. The school will include an 1,800-square-foot music room and a commons area.

Shoemaker said the site does have a space where a performing arts center could be built in the project’s next phase.

“They won’t have everything on day one,” she said. “But North Kitsap High School didn’t have everything on day one, either.”

Toward the end of the meeting, Shoemaker also discussed the Heritage Parks project, which has been advocated by some opponents of the current site as an alternative. The project, which is under the auspices of Kitsap County, would allow the county to purchase a large plot of land near the current site, then partner with the school district to place either schools or, potentially, a new high school on the site.

While the district continues to partner with the county, Shoemaker cautioned that the project is still in too early a stage for the district to act on it. She said that no soil or wetlands testing has been done on the site.

“I’m telling you literally everything we know about the land,” Shoemaker said. “It’s fairly rough.”

The school district is preparing its site plan for Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) review. The site plan includes the three options for the arrangements of elements such as fields, buildings and roads on the site. If approved, it will allow the district to select one of the three. Actual designing the school will likely take until next summer.

Before it submits the site plan, the district will hold a public meeting for comment about the site plan at 7 p.m. June 16 at the Kingston Junior High Commons.

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