Seabeck residents hope to save school

Public hearing set for 6:30 p.m. Monday.

More than a year after the Central Kitsap School District’s (CKSD’s) decision to close Seabeck Elementary School, the next chapter in the facility’s fate will be written Monday.

The district is hosting a public hearing to consider the possible sale of the building, which the Seabeck community has rallied around in a grassroots effort to save.

The public hearing is slated to begin at 6:30 p.m. Monday in the gymnasium of the Jenne-Wright Administration Center, 9210 Silverdale Way in Silverdale.

“From the school board’s perspective it is an essential part of the process,” CKSD Superintendent Greg Lynch said. “The hearing is the culmination of six or seven months of work.”

Depending upon what input the district receives during Monday’s public hearing, a decision could be made after the first of the year, Lynch said, adding that the school board will meet next month to review the input it has received and could formulate a recommendation.

“During the public hearing we want to see what public interest there is in terms of purchasing the property,” Lynch said. “We want to see what kind of offers we get.”

While there might be an interim decision made before school lets out for winter break on Dec. 19, Lynch said most likely a final decision on the property’s future won’t be officially made until sometime after the first of the year.

Proponents for keeping the building out of the hands of private developers said the district has kept them in the loop through CKSD Executive Director of Business and Operations David McVicker.

“We feel that he has listened to us and kept the community’s needs in mind,” said Seabeck resident Loanna Day. “Now we are eager to have the CKSD do whatever they can within the law to continue public ownership of this property.”

The group recently discovered the district sold the old school in Holly to the Holly community club for $1 and should the district need that site for a school, it would return it to them, Day said.

“The club pays the taxes,” she said. “We have the Seabeck, Holly and Crosby clubs interested in keeping this property available for community use.”

The Seabeck area has had a school for about 146 years, which has served the community as a gathering place and that must continue into the future, Day said.

Fellow Seabeck resident Toni Magee said selling the school isn’t a good idea at a time when property values have dropped considerably and the number of people losing their jobs is increasing.

“The role this property could play in the area’s future may very well depend on what will be needed for creating jobs and putting people back into the work force, or restoring the failing ecosystem in our region of Puget Sound,” Magee said.

If the property is sold to a public entity, the community could move forward in providing a place where needs can be met, Day said. If it is sold to a private enterprise it is lost to the community as a public place.

“There has been a year-and-a-half of steering committee discussions and public meetings where people could add in their ideas,” she said. “We have a very comprehensive list of things that could take place on that property.”

Among the items on that list are a community/recreation center, Head Start to senior services and revenue-generating options such as a kayak center or biking center, a tea shop/pub, mimicking centers in England, she said.

“There is a strong desire to see educational services and opportunities for the community,” she said.

However, in order to make that happen, partnerships with public agencies at the county level and perhaps the state and federal levels will be required, she said, adding that the group has received cooperation from the Port of Bremerton and Central Kitsap Commissioner Josh Brown.

What will it take? Partnerships with public agencies at the county level and perhaps at the state and federal levels.

“Over 146 years ago people made the decision to have this property remain in the public domain for educational and recreational purposes,” Magee said. “It has also meant jobs that are connected with these important entities.”

Magee said she foresees the possibility of tapping into educational institutions from around the state and country to address the concerns of economic growth, jobs and restoring the delicate ecosystem on the Hood Canal, adding that any money that remains in the federal and state budgets should make projects like this a high priority.

Even though a final decision won’t be made Monday night, Magee offered a few words of caution.

“Only time will tell if the school district has listened to the people in the Seabeck area who are in favor of keeping this land in the public domain,” she said. “If this land is sold off to the private sector, the public might not fully comprehend what it has lost until it is too late to do anything about it.”

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