LONG BEACH - "It seems an awful lot of things that need to be completed," said Larry Phelps at Monday night's Ocean Beach School Board meeting after a report from school district construction manager Russ McElroy about punchlist items still yet to be completed at the two new elementary schools.

Ocean Park School has seen a year come and go since the building was deemed to be substantially complete, and that anniversary is coming in June for Long Beach School.

McElroy also noted that there is "not as much activity as we'd like to see" in terms of current construction work taking place at Hilltop School - which Superintendent Rainer Houser called an "ongoing problem." There are however several areas being completed, including the kitchen and the two elevators.

Houser said he has taken several groups of students from the high school, who will inhabit the building starting next year, as well as teachers through the building and has received positive feedback about the building. Houser also said that it looks like the timetable for having the building complete enough to start moving in is being pushed back from March to "late spring."

In the consent agenda, the board approved the resignation of two high school coaches, Ned Bittner and Dan Whealdon. Bittner is leaving the varsity football program, which he has headed up for the last four years. Bittner said he plans to continue coaching the girls basketball team however, as well as be an assistant with the track team. Whealdon is stepping down as the girls golf coach, but will remain the coach of the boys team. (Full stories on these changes can be found on Sports, page B2)

Houser reported about goings-on in the state Legislature, and how it pertains to schools. The Legislature is in its third week now and he believes that it will close on time with what he believes will be a strong budget for schools.

Perhaps the biggest item related to schools is the strong possibility that there will be a proposed change to the Washington Constitution allowing school levies to be passed on a simple majority vote, rather than a super majority. Houser said this could be a big plus for a shrinking district like here. If it makes it through the legislature, which he believes it will, the public would vote on it in November. There has not been a constitutional amendment to the super majority rule since its inception in the early 1930s.

During his superintendent reports, Houser presented the board with a draft of a letter that is planned for mailing soon in order to form a focus group that will discus the future of the current high school building. The first meeting date is yet to be decided, but will likely take place in late February. For more information, contact the district office, 642-3739.

Houser also reported that the district will only have to make-up one day due to inclement weather thus far due to a waiver. School was canceled in Ocean Park on Dec. 15 due to a windstorm that knocked out power to the building. Due to the fact that the governor declared the county in an emergency state the district can waive the make-up day. There was also a district-wide snow day just two weeks ago which will be made up at some point - the several late-start days also do not have to be made-up due to the fact that the district is still well over the allotted 1,000 instructional hours for the year.

District business manager Linda Thompson reported another drop in enrollment, this month down 9.5 students to a total of 966. Still well over the budgeted number of 920, Thompson said, "We anticipate continued losses, but at what level we just can't predict."

In new business the board approved the Ocean Park Chamber of Commerce using Sheldon field for their Northwest Garlic Festival June 15 and 16, and for the Old Fashioned Fourth of July on July 4.

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