The Peninsula School District board of directors unanimously voted to buy the Boys and Girls Club building and property at its Jan. 31 meeting, if voters approve the district’s capital bond measure Feb. 12.
The building, currently known as the Jim and Carol Milgard Family Hope Center located on Skansie Avenue, would achieve the first phase of the district’s proposed plan: providing a new elementary school now known only as “No. 10.” The existing facility contains nine classrooms, a gymnasium, lunchroom and offices that would open in fall 2019 and allow the design of a 22-classroom addition to the new school to begin immediately.
“When we learned of this opportunity, it was almost too good to believe,” said Superintendent Art Jarvis in a press release from PSD. “We struggled to find a workable site for the new school and this answer is ideal.”
The seller, Carrie Prudente Holden, president and CEO of the Boys and Girls Clubs of the South Sound said, “I look forward to continuing our strong relationship with the district. Already we have kids who walk to the club from three nearby schools. Kids from 10 other district schools come regularly by bus.”
Dan White, a founding member of Responsible Taxation of Citizens, a political action committee whose members have opposed the current and previous PSD bond measures and levies, said in a telephone interview with KP News, “I would like to have more details, but our group generally supports the purchase of existing properties over new construction. It’s far more cost-effective and for that reason we previously advocated for the CenturyLink building.
“This is a building that is much newer and I regularly attend church at the Harbor Christian Center, which is in the old Boys and Girls Club building. I’m very familiar with the building and I think it would serve the school district well,” White said. “I would like to see more details, but my first impressions are very positive.
“We’re not all about ‘No,’ despite popular opinion…we are about spending money responsibly and this would simply fit our framework of what we want to do. It’s a great step,” White said. “Our issue with the school—we totally agree there are a lot of needs—our approach is more about what financial vehicle you use, so I would still prefer a levy to finance these sorts of things.”
“We have no overcrowding in the PSD,” wrote Randy Boss, also an outspoken member of the RTC, in an email dated Feb. 1 to KP News. “We have an average of 18 students in each of the elementary classrooms and this is a marketing plan to get the bond approved.”
“Our first reaction was relief, since the district was facing a seven or 10 classroom shortfall heading into fall 2019, and nine existing classrooms will be ready to go if the bond passes,” said Jennifer Butler, a Minter Creek Elementary School parent and chair of the pro-bond group Stand Up for Peninsula Schools.
PSD determined the property it already owns, located on Bujacich Road NW and originally intended to construct a full-size elementary school, would take too long to meet what the district has called its pressing need to resolve overcrowding. The Bujacich site lies outside the urban growth boundary, requiring changes in existing Pierce County regulations to build there, according to PSD. That, combined with the anticipated cost of extending utilities to the site, made it unsuitable to become school No. 10.
“While there are many details to be resolved, the overall plan to purchase an existing building that can be used immediately to help relieve overcrowding is an incredible opportunity,” said Shana Nash, an Artondale Elementary parent and volunteer with SUP.
In addition to the phased plan for school No. 10, passage of the bond measure will replace the 60-year-old Evergreen Elementary School, the aging Artondale Elementary will be replaced and expanded, and the bond will fund construction of new elementary school No. 9 on land the district owns in Harbor Hills.
“The Boys and Girls Club has wanted to expand its programs to Key Peninsula for years,” Holden said. “The district’s plan for a community focus at Evergreen will make that possible for us.”