February 25, 2003

Facilities Committee Tackles Hard Issues

A committee of parents, citizens and staff members has been meeting regularly to study the perplexing problems of school district facilities. This facilities committee is charged with the daunting task of prioritizing the myriad of critical facilities issues facing the schools and making recommendations to the Board of Directors by March 17, 2003.

Known officially as the "Facilities Study and Survey Advisory Committee", they have met each week for the past month hearing presentations and poking through school building closets and corners. Whereas the 1997 study and subsequent bond issue had the task of solving the overcrowded junior high and finding permanent housing to replace portable classrooms throughout the district, the prime focus of the present study is the question of how to address the very old schools.

In Washington State, schools are eligible for modernization after twenty years, and communities most typically remodel every twenty-five to thirty years. In contrast, Byron Kibler Elementary and JJ Smith Elementary are Enumclaw's oldest schools at 50 and 46 years old respectively. Likewise, parts of Enumclaw High School (the "200 Building") and Black Diamond are in their 40's and Westwood Elementary School classroom wings date from the mid-1960's.

Aging school buildings bring many problems, including major issues with heating/ventilating and electrical service. Safety, air quality and health standards are in the forefront, as well as functional issues of having enough power to operate computers without tripping circuit breakers. Parking lots feature potholes and badly cracked asphalt as well as 1950's designs that do not address safety issues.

Adding to the gray hair for committee members is the awareness that many of these issues cannot be avoided. Postponing work on aged heating and roofing systems simply adds to the ultimate repair costs and allows further deterioration of the buildings. Sharply increased energy costs from antiquated systems shift funding away from teachers just to heat buildings.

In short, the volunteer facilities committee continues its labors in an atmosphere of good stewardship, but with the certain knowledge that the demands are great.