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Central Kitsap's Jackson Park Elementary has too many problems to fix

The water fountains at Jackson Park have been out of commission since 2005 when an underground leak was discovered. Although no contaminants were found, students drink from water coolers but use tap water for hand-washing. - Christopher Carter/staff photo
The water fountains at Jackson Park have been out of commission since 2005 when an underground leak was discovered. Although no contaminants were found, students drink from water coolers but use tap water for hand-washing.
— image credit: Christopher Carter/staff photo

Students at Jackson Park Elementary have to be careful not drink out of the water fountains.

Rebuilding Jackson Park is atop the Central Kitsap School District’s list of construction projects, especially since 2005 when a leak was discovered in the school’s plumbing.

The discovery led to the use of bottled water as a precaution, and the appearance of warning signs on water fountains.

But despite being rundown, the school is safe, officials said.

Principal Tess Danubio said she continually sees areas where improvements need to be made, but said the school is not dangerous.

“I would personally not allow anyone in here if that was the case,” she said.

Although the school has become known for its potentially sketchy water — tests for contamination came back negative — it is just one item on the school’s to-do list.

The 43-year-old building off Austin Drive west of Bremerton has issues that include everything from worn-out carpet to an old fire alarm system.

And district officials say the building is too far gone to fix.

Instead, officials are working on a plan to scrap it and start over.

“Jackson Park is overdue for a rebuild,” said Superintendent Greg Lynch. “Jackson Park does not meet the needs of the 21st century.”

Lynch said he would likely recommend to the school board a new building. The recommendation could come as early as May.

It’s not the first time the district has considered a new building for the school’s 478 students and 63 employees.

The school took a place in line for new construction in 2005, but that year a construction levy failed at the polls.

Since then, the building has been limping along, starting with the water coolers.

“We decided at that point in time that we would not invest any money to fix the problem,” Lynch said.

The $8,900 annual cost of the bottled water at the 30 or so water coolers around the school is little compared to the cost to overhaul the water system, estimated at $250,000 in 2005.

“I can’t recommend we fix a system that has already failed,” Lynch said.

The water issue is only the beginning.

The roof was replaced in 2000 when leaks were discovered, costing the school a half million dollars.

The electrical system has been limiting teachers and students at the school, making it difficult for installation of technology upgrades like digital projectors.

When the school was built, much of the building was not equipped with enough electrical outlets to accommodate developments in classroom technology like computers, said Richard Best, director of facilities for the school district.

“We do the best we can with what we have available,” said Linda Brown, a first grade teacher at the school.

Best said the electrical system is overloaded and that an upgrade would have cost up to a half million dollars.

Those two systems alone, water and electrical, could stick the district with a bill amounting up to a $1 million in today’s dollars.

“It’s just not cost effective to go in there and fix the problems now that Jackson Park is number one on the list,” Lynch said.

Best noted other problems on school grounds including single-pane windows, worn-out carpet and trip hazards on walkways.

The school has no air conditioning and the heating system sometimes does not work properly.

“It’s one of the biggest things we struggle with,” Danubio said.

While emergency systems are in place at the school, parts of the system have not been updated in some time.

The school upgraded its fire alarm system in 1997, but Best said that while old, the system works.

After a 2009 inspection by the Bremerton Fire Department, it was noted that the school needed to improve its emergency lighting.

Bremerton Fire Marshal Mike Six said the school has a clean record when it comes to fire hazards, except for the emergency lighting and the fact it does not have a sprinkler system.

“That makes me a little nervous,” he said.

Getting a new school would be more about the curb appeal, Danubio said.

“The concern is more of the inequity of the other, newer buildings for the aesthetic appeal,” Danubio said.

Lynch said the process of getting a new school could take several years, and that is if everything goes as planned.

He said the first step is for the board to vote on a recommendation to rebuild and after that, its up to the board to approve an election that would put the project on a ballot.

The district has not passed a successful capital projects initiative since 1992, Lynch said.

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