School district pursues funding for building needs


Facilities and funding continued to be hot topics for the Wahkiakum School District Board of Directors, but the board's May meeting on Tuesday started with a presentation from teachers Audrey Petterson and Tina Merz on the high school and middle school English Language Arts programs, a new bus, and a tour of students’ artistic endeavors.

The writing process was the focus of Petterson and Merz’s presentation. The teachers talked about the skills the students were learning, and the strategies they, as teachers, were using in the classroom to improve student’s writing, including the ways they got students involved and responsible for their own growth as writers, skills that they found to be applicable in other classrooms.

“We’re doing a lot of good things and we’ve not heard that for the past year,” Superintendent Brent Freeman said. “There are some remarkable things taking place. It happens here daily. What you see is a point in time when you come in here for a couple hours, we typically focus on problems which need to be addressed, but behind this are some absolutely wonderful stories.”

The directors took some time to check out the district’s new bus, and an arts presentation by students, which included music and dance, before returning to the library to continue their meeting.

Freeman said he would go after some $5 million Small Rural Modernization grants, as the district continues to work with Apollo Solutions to try to make improvements to their facilities.

“I’m going to put in for a grant for every single thing I need,” Freeman said. “I have $30 million worth of need that can be fixed by Apollo Solutions, so I’m going to put in for six $5 million grants.”

Apollo Solutions focuses on energy conservation, everything from replacing windows, insulation, water, and more. They are working to resolve electrical issues for the district, Freeman said.

Electrical improvements alone at the high school is expected to cost $8-9 million.

"Our single biggest focus right now is around the electricity,” Freeman said. “It’s hard for us to justify going forward anywhere with the electrical shortfalls that we have.”

But, he said, it doesn’t stop there.

“We have insulation issues, HVAC issues, water issues, failed water systems, every one of our buildings have leaks,” he said.

In 2020, the district went after a $347,000 safety and security grant to address door locks, camera updates, and more, but they did not make the cut, Freeman said. It was prior to covid-19, and legislators said they would go back and ask the governor for more money, but the district didn’t see any.

Washington State Representative Joel McEntire just helped to secure $515,000 to take care of the issue, according to the superintendent. The district will get a new camera system, new door mechanisms and locks, and make the changes necessary to become compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

There are new cyber insurance requirements, and Freeman said he believes the district is currently in compliance.

The board is planning a summer workshop. The directors were encouraged to send Freeman ideas for topics, which may include facilities, discipline and student management, Chromebooks, and potentially a guest speaker to talk about equity.

Freeman gave an update on rates for use of district facilities and talked about advertising rates for the scoreboards, before the board gave approval on both matters.

Freeman said a full time mental health therapist has been hired, but it meant some changes in funding from Wahkiakum Health and Human Services to ESD 112.

The board approved the annual Asset Preservation Program Report, resignations from Cindy Fudge, Ryan Garrett, Lisa Sauer-Furlong, Jeff Pillar, and Patty Calvert’s departure. They also approved the hire of Brad Moon as the middle school assistant football coach, and a transfer of funds from the general fund to the transportation vehicle fund.

The board closed the meeting for an executive session to discuss a legal and personnel issue.


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