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North Beach eyes brand new school

by Erica Farmer
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A multimillion-dollar bond measure aimed at making some North Beach schools safer for students, teachers, and the community will go to the polls soon. In mid-January, voters in the North Beach School District will receive mail-in ballots for new levy and bond measures.

Proposal 1 is a $110 million, 25-year bond measure that would assist in paying for the reconstruction of Pacific Beach Elementary (PBE) as well as enhancements to North Beach Middle/High School and Ocean Shores Elementary (OSE).


PBE was constructed in 1956, prior to seismic building rules, in close proximity to Pacific Beach’s ocean. All three wings of PBE were designated as “extremely high priority” seismic retrofits in a June report to the Washington State Legislature by the Washington State Department of Natural Resources.


The new bond proposal would allow the district to buy land and construct a seismic-safe building on higher elevation, away from tsunami flood zones, at an anticipated tax rate of $1.75 per $1,000 of property valuation. The bond would also pay for the construction of tsunami-safe refuges for students, staff, and community members at each school.


While OSE is the district’s newest building and is in excellent structural condition, the bond provides an opportunity to upgrade the structure to make it tsunami-ready while also alleviating classroom overcrowding. If Proposal 1 is accepted, the district would construct a two-story school expansion with eight additional classrooms and a multi-use space/tsunami shelter for 400-500 community people.


“The tsunami refuge would also be a dual-use area, effectively providing an extra multi-function room that could be used for educational purposes during the school day and by the community after school hours.” “Should a tsunami strike outside of school hours, the facility would be completely open to the public for emergency access,” North Beach School District Superintendent Andrew Kelly said.

The district’s resources in terms of classroom space and teaching have been stressed due to a period of expansion across the district, compounded by COVID-19-related relocation.


The HVAC system at North Beach Middle and Senior High School hasn’t been completely operating in over a decade. According to Kelly, the system’s age precludes it from being repaired properly, requiring the district to either “limp along” with the present system or replace it entirely.


The “long-range facilities committee” is presently in the midst of applying for $700,000 in need-based rural improvement funds through OSPI, as well as a FEMA grant to help solve the concerns stated in the bond.


“We’ve arrived at a stage when being responsible means spending money wisely to maintain our taxpayers’ investment in local schools,” Kelly stated in a news statement on December 7.


The Educational Programs and Operations (EPO) levy, which has been approved by North Beach homeowners on a regular basis, will be renewed under Proposal 2. The yearly total levy collection of $1,986,705 accounts for 14% of the overall district budget and covers educational needs not covered by state funds, such as increased staff wages and benefits. While the state classifies these positions as “enrichment,” they allow the district to reduce class sizes and enhance one-on-one instruction.


Residents of North Beach have typically contributed $1.35 per thousand of assessed value to the EPO levy. Instead, the district is asking for approval of up to $1.06 per $1,000 of property valuation, which is 29 cents per thousand less than previous years.


“By timing this bond measure now, while property values are still rising and interest rates are still low, the district is in an excellent position to make long-term capital investments in schools without putting an undue burden on taxpayers,” the press release stated.


The overall school tax rate for homeowners in the North Beach School District will be $2.56 per $1,000 of property worth if both initiatives pass. In comparison to other districts in the county, homeowners in the North Beach School District have historically paid lower school taxes. Aberdeen residents, for example, pay $4.46 per $1,000 of assessed value. The cost of living in Hoquiam is $4.19.

“The quality of a community’s schools is mostly determined by its schools, which has an impact on the value of our houses.” Many of us consider our houses to be our most valuable possession.


Griffin said a north-south route in the region would minimize traffic from traveling through communities to reach County Road 6 from Coastal Gateway Boulevard, in addition to offering facilities for the booming area.


Farms, so the construction of this route gives new parallel access to highway 59 that hopefully moves people away from North Craft Farms and onto this dedicated roadway,” Griffin said. “We’ve been looking at the 40-acre chunk that the Craft family contributed back in 2016.”


“With the 40-acre park/school property, we’ve been going through some park master planning work led by (Community Development Director) Lee Jones,” Griffin said.

“They’ve had some public meetings and feedback, and some of the items being considered include not only park usage, but a new primary school, public safety, and a fire station.”


Griffin believes that with the 81 acres, the city may begin to consider adding more leisure possibilities, comparable to the park and center downtown. Parks and recreation are now lacking in the developing areas east of State Route 59.

The city’s Cultural Center is located on County Road 6 west, as is the Gulf Shores Sportsplex, which is commonly utilized for sports tourism and high school athletics.

“I feel this would be a great location for a Sims Park and Bodenhamer Center replica,” Griffin added.


Griffin believes the $2 million price tag for the 81 acres is a good deal since the city’s existing 40-acre property was just valued at $1.3 million. The Craft family also donated two 84-acre plots on the southwest corner of Coastal Gateway Boulevard and the Beach Express, with the intention of developing an education center including a high school and maybe facilities for college studies.

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