School board nixes high school relocation plan

DAN CHASAN: He thought the proposal deserved more analysis.

DAN CHASAN: He thought the proposal deserved more analysis.

Vashon High School is staying put — at least for now.

At last Thursday night’s school board meeting, and with little discussion, the Vashon Island School District board of directors politely turned down a proposal to relocate Vashon High School to K2 Commons.

The board voted 4 to 0, with one abstaining, to “say no thank you” to the proposal put forth by Dick Sontgerath and Truman O’Brien of the Heritage Group.

The board followed the lead of Superintendent Terry Lindquist, who had told the board that the proposal didn’t seem like a good idea for a number of reasons.

In the proposal, Vashon High School would share K2 Commons, at the former manufacturing site for K2, with other Island organizations such as the library, Voice of Vashon and an indoor skate park.

Lindquist pointed out a number of troubling issues with Sontgerath and O’Brien’s proposal. In fact, Lindquist had prepared somewhat of a rebuttal for the board prior to their meeting.

For example, schools must be smoking-, weapon- and drug-free. Lindquist questioned if this would be possible at a mixed-use facility.

He said the school district’s risk management team was concerned about providing insurance in an situation where the school district is a tenant of a building, and shares the building with other tenants.

For example, what if a fire was started by another tenant but damaged or destroyed the high school? How would that be covered by the school district’s insurance, Lindquist’s statement to the school board pondered.

Therefore, the risk management team ruled that the only feasible option for the school district would be to own the entire K2 building and lease the parts not occupied by the high school to other tenants, Lindquist’s statement said.

“I think it’s a terrific proposal,” he concluded at the meeting. “It’s interesting, it’s innovative.”

Lindquist suggested several other uses for the K2 site that would benefit Island youth, including partnerships with Boys & Girls Clubs of America, South Seattle Community College or YMCA.

Board member Dan Chasan abstained from the vote because he thought the proposal deserved a little more exploration.

“I would have been happy to see us explore the opportunities a little further before writing it off,” he said on Friday. “I think we would have ended up writing it off anyway, but I did feel a little uncomfortable about dismissing it so early in the process.”

He said he would have liked to see the Heritage Group provide the school district with more concrete numbers on the cost of the K2 Commons-high school proposal.

Chasan said it would have been “a pretty unconventional way to do a school and people couldn’t get their heads around it.”

Other board members said they couldn’t imagine Island kids spending four years in a former manufacturing site and corporate headquarters.

“I tried to visualize it over the past few days, but these problems have still been here,” said board member Laura Wishik at the meeting. “There’s a place in my gut that still says no. I really want the high school on the main campus.”

Board chair Bob Hennessey addressed Truman O’Brien in the audience.

“You guys have been creative in your approach to this community asset, but there are a number of fatal flaws in my view associated with it,” he said. “It’s not a surprise to me; I think people are just too uncomfortable with the idea.”