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School district debating preschool's future

POULSBO — For Ryan Seaton, the location of her special-needs preschool classroom is not as important as its condition.

Seaton and her students at Poulsbo Elementary School are caught in the middle of a debate between school board members and school district administrators regarding what to do with the portable that, until recently, housed them.

In October, the roof of Portable J began leaking during a storm. Parts of the carpet and walls in an office were water damaged, but after repairs the building was back to normal. In November, a larger section of the roof began leaking, and parts of the walls and flooring in the building’s main classroom space were again damaged. Today, the portable smells of damp wood and a tarp covers a section of the roof.

Seaton and her preschool students have moved about 100 feet, into a classroom inside the main Poulsbo Elementary building. The kids, she says, never seemed to notice much had changed after the transition. They have the same routines and toys they’ve always had.

Members of the North Kitsap school board, however, are deeply divided about where to house the students. Everyone agrees the portable requires at least a new roof, carpeting, and repairs to water-damaged walls and flooring. Dave Dumpert, the district’s director of facilities and maintenance, and Wes Stewart, a member of the district’s capital facilities advisory committee who has 41 years of experience in public education and building maintenance, recommended the board keep the 29-year-old portable but do the renovations necessary to get it back to working condition.

“It’s a superb building,” Stewart told the board at a Feb. 11 meeting. “You would spend a lot more money trying to replace it, when the building is fundamentally sound.”

Two board members, Val Torrens and Dan Weedin, agreed with Stewart’s recommendation.

“What he recommended would put that building back to what it needs to be, and it would be basically good as new,” Weedin said.

Board members Tom Anderson, Ed Strickland and Kathleen Dassel believe the portable should either be replaced or the students should stay where they are in the main building.

“I think they’re taking the cheap way out, and I don’t think that’s the way to do it,” Strickland said of Stewart and Dumpert’s recommendation.

Renovations would cost as much as $50,000, but replacing the portable would cost anywhere from $103,000 to $209,000, depending on whether the district uses a brand new or a 6-year-old portable to replace the current structure.

“I think we’re going to have to spend it someday to fix things up, so I think we’d better do it now rather than later,” Strickland said.

Strickland also suggested housing the students in a classroom at North Kitsap High School, so high school students at the child development program in the career and technical education program could learn to care for the kids. Seaton would rather stay on campus at Poulsbo Elementary.

“Over there, I’d be very, very isolated,” she said.

Of all the options on the table, Seaton would prefer a new classroom or portable, but said she trusts the board if they choose to renovate the current portable.

“There’s pros and cons about both,” she said. “You know, I’d love to be in the building or have a new portable. But if we get a new roof, that’s OK too. I just want it to be a good fit for the students.”

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