School district works on grants for facilities
June 30, 2022
The Wahkiakum School District Board of Directors met June 21, to talk about their summer workshops, facility needs and funding, and a question about the lawsuit that had been resolved by the state auditor.
While the district waits for news on the lawsuit against the State of Washington to fund capital needs, Superintendent Brent Freeman continues to look for ways to pay for improvements needed at the schools, which he believes could total $70 million.
Freeman has been working with Apollo Solutions, a consulting firm that connects school districts with contractors and funding, to maximize a $5 million Small Rural Modernization Grant, if the district were to be awarded one.
“With the lawsuit out there, we felt it was important to push this lever,” Freeman said. “Wahkiakum has never been awarded a grant like this.”
“We lose so much efficiency in not being able to go after real true components,” Freeman continued. “Our electrical system alone is going to cost about $9 million. I can’t do the electrical system with one grant. So what we’ve chosen to do is to come up with a strategy around five different grant packages that we are going to put in.”
According to Freeman, they had been encouraged by the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction to apply for several grants at one time. After several months and hundreds of hours poured into the project, Freeman along with Apollo Solutions drew up $30 million worth of packages for the high school.
After all that work, they were told they could only apply for one grant.
So while he continues to wait for the decision on the one $5 million grant, the worries about the electrical system and the roof, and everything else, never go away.
“I think we stand an okay chance,” Freeman said of the Small Rural Modernization Grant. “If we don’t get it now, we will never get this grant. I’ve applied for this grant three times, and we’ve always just fallen short on it.”
The district was awarded a grant for safety, security, and ADA access, thanks to some help from Representative Joel McEntire, but they’ve run into a different issue--spending it.
Freeman would like to work with Verkada, a company that provides security systems, but four teams have visited to price out the project and so far no one wants the job.
“Two of the teams said it is not worth their time,” Freeman said. “They could do it. They have the materials. One team flat out said, ‘I’m not going to sit in that little town for a month.’ They could make better money in Seattle or Vancouver."
The superintendent isn’t ready to go with another company yet but acknowledges it may come to that.
The district could put in the cameras themselves, but run into other issues when it comes to doors, which come with proprietary issues, or the electrical work.
Freeman talked about enrollment and expenditures, which included $81,299.42 for a new bus, a $17,000 lawsuit bill, and $77,000 for new chrome books.
A grant paid for the computers, Freeman said, and he hoped the district would be getting some offset from other schools for the $17,000.
Wahkiakum has been seeking funding for the lawsuit from other school districts in the state. Freeman said that one district had questioned the state auditor about the legality of contributing.
An initial decision was made by the state auditor’s office, which stated, “Providing $3,000 to Wahkiakum for their lawsuit, could be considered a violation of RCW 43.09.210. When transferring funds from one government to another you must receive fair value for what you give. In this case Quilcine would be giving Wahkiakum $3,000 and receiving $0 back. There should be no benefit in any financial manner whatever by an appropriation or fund made for the support of another.”
However, the matter was disputed by Wahkiakum’s law team at Foster Garvey, and Freeman later heard back from the state auditor: It was allowable but districts should refer to their legal counsel.
A summer workshop is planned for July 11. The board will talk about tech investment, the budget, safety and security, the lawsuit and facilities, while taking time to walk through each of the buildings on campus.
“Each one of you could be deposed,” Superintendent Brent Freeman said of the district’s lawsuit. “I think it's worthwhile to put some eyes on parts of our facilities.”
Freeman also spoke about Washington State School Directors’ Association’s (WSSDA) annual conference, which will take place in Spokane this year on November 17-20 and said that Wahkiakum had been invited to a safety and security workshop in Kelso on August 9 for the first time.
“Obviously there has been a lot going on, regionally,” Freeman said. “I don’t know if you saw what happened in Kalama. Castle Rock ended up canceling days last week or the week before. There is a lot of focus on this.”
According to the agenda, Freeman said, two breakout sessions will be available covering a variety of topics, including but not limited to juvenile access to attorneys, Interviewing 101, suicide ideation response, lessons learned from active shooter situations, cyber bullying, how to win a discipline hearing, drug identification, and school site and safety self assessment.
Freeman said that he would attend, along with both principals, the new mental health counselor, a drug and alcohol prevention specialist and some representatives from the local sheriff’s department.
Principal Stephanie Leitz told the directors that K-12 staff had received training on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) based learning, and talked briefly about graduations and sending out report cards.
“It was nice to end on a normal note,” she said.
The directors approved the 2021-2022 Highly capable