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Forum to offer voters a glimpse at school district’s renovation options

The Vashon Island School District and its five-member board will hold a community-wide forum Tuesday, Sept. 9, in an attempt to gauge Islanders’ potential support for a multi-million dollar bond measure to rebuild parts of the district’s aging infrastructure.

The forum is the first community-wide gathering since the district identified two potential renovations and building projects to improve facilities at its three schools, one of which could form the basis of a ballot measure next February.

According to Anne Atwell, a communications consultant for the district, the gathering will include the use of sophisticated tools to show Islanders what the district is proposing as well as garner their input about the options.

Mark VanDervanter, an architect, will show a computer-generated, three-dimensional simulation of the two options, which should help audience members get a clear picture of the proposals and how they would alter the campus, Atwell said. VanDervanter, known across the country for developing sophisticated three-dimensional simulations for public works projects, is donating his time, she added.

And Buzz Blick, a long-range planning and change management consultant who lives on the Island, will deploy a survey tool that enables participants to provide instantaneous feedback on the various options.

“We’re just trying to get as good of a read as we can to see if Islanders are interested in a bond issue,” said Superintendent Terry Lindquist.

The district and the board decided to put forward the two options after working closely with an architectural firm on possible reconfigurations of the campus. Both options focus largely on Vashon High School, the campus considered most in need of a makeover.

Option A, with a $43 million to $47 million price tag, would not result in any new structures but would rehabilitate existing buildings, making them mechanically, seismically and structurally sound. If passed, it would direct the district to renovate the existing high school buildings in their current locations, with no classroom, athletic or theater improvements; replace the ventilation systems at Chautauqua and McMurray; replace roofs and upgrade the plumbing, heating and ventilation systems at the high school; and provide a new modular office for district officials.

Option A would cost property owners $1.58 to $1.67 per $1,000 in assessed value — or $52 to $53 a month for a $400,000 home.

Option B, at $53 million to $58 million, would require a renovation of 80 percent of the high school’s existing square footage and the demolition of some of its oldest buildings.

Most noteworthy is that it would call for the creation of a new 40,000-square-foot building for classrooms, repurposing other buildings for vocational training and other uses.

It would also provide new handicap-accessible locker rooms, convert classrooms adjacent to the theater for theater use and renovate a brick structure on

the site for use as district offices.

This option would cost property owners $1.75 to $1.84 per $1,000 if assessed value — or $58 to $60 a month for a home assessed at $400,000.

The district has also put forward stand-alone provisions that could be added to either option, including a second gym to reduce the number of scheduling conflicts, theater improvements and the creation of a new track.

The forum, Atwell said, marks the culmination of four months of public outreach that district officials have already undertaken. The district and board have offered up both an online and paper survey asking Islanders about their preferences, held neighborhood gatherings at people’s homes and sought input at the Farmers Market and other gatherings.

Atwell said the effort at outreach has been far more aggressive this time than it was when the district considered a bond measure for a campus makeover three years ago — and when it was criticized for not listening to the community.

Board chair Bob Hennessey said he and other board members believe the outreach underscores the thoughtfulness and transparency of the political process this time around.

“You want people to make a decision on the merits of the proposal, not how it was arrived at,” he said. “And I think this time, whatever goes on the ballot will succeed or fail on its merit — not on whether we’ve given the community enough time to voice its opinion.

“No one wants to put something on the ballot that’s a nonstarter,” he added.

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