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Leaks, heating issues among concerns at Hawkins school

Belfair Herald of Belfair, Washington

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Bond could move students to retrofitted NMH5

The shell of Hawkins Middle School, built in 1967, doesn't have insulation. Weeds and moss grow in the atrium areas, which leak water into the main building. For the past year, students and teachers have dodged a bucket placed in the doorway of the exit to the commons area to catch water dripping from a ruptured roof.

The school's gymnasium is home to dry rot, and also doesn't have insulation. "It's basically a roof and walls," said Principal Thorn Worlund.

A proposed bond package being discussed by the North Mason School District board of directors includes replacing North Mason High School with a new building, and then moving the Hawkins Middle School students into the retrofitted high school building.

If the school board proposes such a bond - estimated to cost $40 million to $55 million and it achieves a 60 percent supermajor-ity vote, the district's students in grades six through eight would move into the retrofitted high school building in the fall of 2016. The school board is eying an April ballot measure.

Although all the discussions are preliminary, such a move sounds good to Worlund.

"To even bring (Hawkins Middle School) up to code would be so much more expensive than just replacing it ... This is a less expensive way over the next 30 years than to just fix these structures that have outlived their lives," he said.

Worlund, who has been principal at Hawkins for three years, last week toured North Mason High School. He noted that the commons area at the high school is bigger than the middle school's, although both feature narrow hallways. The lockers could be eliminated to ease the congestion; a simple retrofit could also include large rooms for art classes, and perhaps a shop, Worlund said.

"The footprint is plenty large for 450 middle school students," he said.

The move to a bigger, warmer and safer building would give students and staff a sense of pride, Worlund said.

"It would be new enough, and different enough, that the kids would see it as a new school," he said.

Passage of a capital levy three years ago led to improvements in the middle school's heating system. "Still, we have to run the heat continually," Worlund said. "You can't regulate it. It's because the radiators are so old."

The capital levy improvements were a "godsend," Worlund said.

"The capital levy made this building work for the past three years ... A lot of the systems were failing, and it helped a lot," he said.

He added, "But it's still an old, old, old building and it doesn't give a sense of pride."

Music teacher Stan Yantis understands he's taught at the school for 30 years. His classroom is inside the gymnasium building.

"We have outgrown it," Yantis said. "We have no practice rooms, no instrument storage, no uniform storage." He points to the band uniforms hanging from the ceiling, above the heads of the student musicians.

"We're out of space here," he said.

The classroom doesn't have plumbing, so Yantis has to carry in buckets of water to show students how to clean their instruments. There aren't enough electrical outlets. The roof leaks.

"We had termites laying eggs and they were dropping on the students while they were playing," Yantis said.

The move to the renovated high school could provide the student musicians with practice rooms, he said.

The district states that renovations at the current high school could include improved bathrooms, new finishes, and the upgrading of the clock, intercom, security and data systems. All the floors could be replaced. It could also include new seats in the auditorium, and the installation of an elevator.

The roof also would be replaced. The school board is discussing replacing the roofs of all four schools in the district.

As for the Hawkins Middle School structure, the board is talking about using the addition built in 1983 to house kitchen, maintenance, IT services, or to serve as district headquarters.

North Mason School District Superintendent David Peterson stresses that while the plans are preliminary, passage of such a bond would likely produce a tax rate of between $1.40 and $1.60 per $1, 000 of assessed property value - or about $5.75 a week on a $200, 000 house.

Peterson will update the board on the proposed bond at the regular meeting at 6:30 tonight at the district headquarters.

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Original Publication Date: January 17, 2013

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