By Matthew Nash
Olympic Peninsula News Group
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Earlier this year, state legislators appropriated $5.5 million for design and construction of 10 buildings in the Sequim, Seattle, Mount Vernon, Wapato and Toppenish public school districts as part of an effort to reduce class sizes in kindergarten through third grade.
Funding stems from Engrossed Substitute House Bill 2380, but Sequim School District must provide a site to build and classroom furnishings.
Brian Lewis, Sequim schools' director of business services, said staff made the decision to install the new buildings at Greywolf, 171 Carlsborg Road, because Helen Haller Elementary, which is at 350 W. Fir St., is at capacity.
“Haller can't handle any more kids,” he said.
Last year, Helen Haller enrolled about 630 students and Greywolf about 510.
Requirements from the state funding mandate districts place the buildings only at K-3 sites.
Construction in Sequim is tentatively set to begin in late September and be finished by April 2017.
Lewis said these two new buildings are different from portable buildings because they'll be placed on foundations and will not be relocatable.
“Portables have different standards for construction and aren't as robust as these buildings,” he said.
While these new buildings are not portables, the district will continue to use 13 classrooms in seven portables at Helen Haller, eight classrooms in four portables at Sequim High School and four classrooms in two portables at Greywolf.
Lewis told the Sequim School Board on Monday, July 18 that the project is in the feasibility phase right now.
Members of the design-build team of Walsh Construction Co., architectural firm Mahlum, and engineering firm Coughlin Porter Lundeen were on-site last week.
A design workshop is set for Wednesday through Thursday this week.
A major component of the construction is that the legislature directed the state Department of Enterprise Services, which coordinates modular projects, to use cross-laminated timber (CLT) in the buildings.
Cross-laminated timber is made of multiple layers of kiln-dried lumber boards, with each wood layer laid perpendicular to the preceding one.
Layers are glued together under pressure with formaldehyde-free structural adhesives to form large rectangular panels.
Manufacturers say panels do not ignite easily and remain structurally sound when burned.
Such material has a lower carbon footprint than steel structures, proponents say.
State Rep. Steve Tharinger, a Sequim Democrat who represents the 24th Legislative District, said that as capital budgets chair in the House, he urged keeping the project in the budget because of the advantages of cross-laminated timber and the opportunity to create more jobs.
The 24th District covers Clallam and Jefferson counties and part of Grays Harbor County.
Tharinger said one intent is to develop a market for this specific timber, which has been readily used in Europe since the 1990s.
He said Sequim is part of the pilot project to see how the timber and process works for Washington state's schools and other construction in the private sector.
Lewis said the cross-laminated panels will be constructed in a factory and shipped in assembled components or as a flat pack.
The nearest cross-laminated timber plant is either in Oregon or Penticton, B.C., and a plant being constructed in Colville will not be ready to support this project, he said.
Sequim Schools' Superintendent Gary Neal told the School Board that he has told Tharinger he advocates using local timber because shipping costs for the wood from either Oregon or British Columbia could be “astronomical.”
Tharinger said using local lumber “in the long-term, is a real possibility.”
“As we develop the program and talk to the private sector, they really wanted us to work through the permitting and the codes,” he said.
“Once we show that's doable we can develop the market,” he said.
No decision has been made on where the new buildings will go on Greywolf's campus or which classes will go in them yet.
Lewis said the classrooms that go into the new buildings will have to be from K-3 but it's up to Principal Donna Hudson to make the arrangements.
Due to the construction schedule, the buildings will most likely not be used until the 2017-18 school year, he said.
For more information on the buildings, contact Lewis at at 360-582-3266 or email@example.com.
Matthew Nash is a reporter with the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which is composed of Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.