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School building in Kingston set to start

KINGSTON — The earth that was dug up for the ceremonial groundbreaking of a new high school in Kingston was tough and rugged, and in spots, impenetrable — not unlike the process of planning the school itself.

But no matter how daunting the development was, the school board, numerous community members and administrators arrived Tuesday to celebrate the apogee of the design process. The school’s architectural plans are complete, permits have been secured, lawsuits settled and approval by the school board gained.

It’s time to build.

The pitter-pattering of rain certainly didn’t dampen school officials’ spirits, especially that of North Kitsap School District Supt. Gene Medina.

“Welcome to a special day,” Medina said to a crowd of about 30 in attendance. “It’s been a long time since February 2002 and quite an adventure.”

He cited the time when, once the 2001 $60.1 million bond was approved, intense preparation began on the centerpiece of funding aimed to not only renovate, but realign the North End’s school district. Once built, Kingston High School and it’s sister school, North Kitsap High School, will have the capacity to absorb ninth graders and put them “in high school where they belong,” School Board President Catherine Ahl said in her own speech at the groundbreaking. The junior high schools will become sixth-through-eighth grade middle schools and the district’s seven elementaries will reduce their populations by an entire grade, becoming a kindergarten-through-fifth configuration.

Medina also lauded the school board, calling them “a small band of dedicated, tenacious people.”

“The earth and dirt we move today is their courage to move ahead,” Medina commented.

The board’s courage had clearly become happiness.

“My jaws are sore from grinning so much today,” Ahl said.

She took her speaking opportunity to thank voters for the chance to renovate many of the school’s buildings as well as give approval for the new high school to be built.

“If voters hadn’t passed this bond in 2001, we wouldn’t be standing here,” Ahl said.

Construction of the $38.5 million, 800-student school will begin July 1 and will be completed in time for the opening of the 2007-2008 school year.

Seattle’s Bassetti Architects designed the school and Wick Constructors of Seattle has inked a $23.4 million contract with the district to build the school. Master planning, landscaping and the environmental impact statement were carried out by Cascade Design Collaborative, also of Seattle.

At the center of the coordination were the district’s capital facilities board and the community-driven capital facilities advisory committee (CFAC), many of whom were in attendance.

“This is a great opening to construction,” said NKSD’s Director of Capital Programs Robin Shoemaker. “I hope that we saved some energy for construction.”

The property has been logged but the stumps still remain. Shoemaker led two walkthroughs of the site along an existing trail. Two main areas have been cleared for the main two buildings. The southwest building will house mostly the gymnasium and PE facilities while the northern building will contain the main classroom area. The “school in the woods,” concept is being noticeably implemented as thick forest surrounds the site on all sides.

Before the tour began, Shoemaker concluded her remarks by thanking those whose work got the district to this point, despite the roadblocks — and there were many — they faced.

“I genuinely want to thank everyone involved in this process. It was always interesting,” she said, evoking chuckles from the crowd.

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