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Parks commissioner calls for ‘timeout’ before school board decides fate of VHS structure
A Vashon Park District commissioner urged members of the Vashon School Board last week to delay their decision about the fate of Building A to give the park district time to consider other possible uses for the high school structure.
Parks Commissioner David Hackett told school board members at their meeting Thursday that school district staff had failed to “consider community options” when they announced a few weeks ago it made more sense to tear down Vashon High School’s main structure and erect a new building. The district had initially planned to remodel the aging yet still functional structure.
“I’d like a short timeout,” Hackett said, adding that he needed at least three to four weeks to try to construct a business plan for another possible use for the 45,000-square-foot building.
Some Islanders have long wanted a community center, while others have expressed frustration over the lack of space for after-school basketball leagues and a host of other needs, he said. “There are a lot of ideas out there.”
Board members, however, told Hackett they can’t delay a decision about the fate of Building A — the largest structure on the high school campus — because of the tight timeline the district’s architect and contractor face. If Building A were to remain in place, board members said, it would limit the architect’s design options and dictate a cascade of other decisions, including the location and look of the structure that would replace it.
After creating a business plan for a new use for Building A, Hackett said, the park district would likely need to seek voter approval for the funds to make such a vision come to fruition. School board members, noting a public vote could not occur until November, said such a process would trigger considerable delays.
“I’m convinced the community could make excellent use of that facility,” Laura Wishik, the board chair, told Hackett. “Doing that, however, would have an enormous impact in terms of both time and costs.”
“I’m not willing to go there,” added Kathy Jones, another board member. “We will have a wonderful facility when we’re done with this.”
Bob Hennessey concurred. “Having a mini-Kingdome within 25 feet (of the new structure) is not appealing to me. ... You’re asking us to take on a huge amount of risk for an outcome I don’t consider desirable or very possible.”
Hackett, after the meeting, said he was disappointed by the board’s response. “I think it’s a rush to judgment,” he said.
But he said he’s pleased that the school board will likely vacate yet preserve Building F — a brick structure adjacent to the swimming pool. The park district is already keenly interested in that structure, especially in light of the fact that it now owns and manages the pool.
Building F, at 4,000 square feet, is much smaller than Building A. Even so, Hackett said, it would double the amount of space the park district currently has at its headquarters in Ober Park and place the park district at the high school, the heart of after-school activities.
“That’s a good consolation prize,” Hackett said of the park district’s possible use of Building F.
The school board is expected to vote on Building A’s future at its meeting at 7 p.m. Thursday at McMurray.