ILWACO - The Ocean Beach School District Board passed resolutions last week finalizing several school construction projects and ensuring access to state match money.

"The significance of the board passing these resolutions is that now we can close out the construction projects," OBSD Superintendent Rainer Houser said.

The approvals mean Long Beach and Ocean Park elementary schools' mechanical systems are operating according to specifications, Houser said, and that construction has concluded on the two schools as required by the state.

There's still an issue with flooring at the two schools, though, Houser said, involving the transition between the old floors and the newly installed flooring which has created a crack "that needs to be fixed," he said. "It's not a safety issue," he said, "we just need to figure out a more permanent transition so it doesn't get worse."

Despite the board voting to pass the resolutions, there's still an exception involving a disagreement over quality and warranty items, Houser said. "The reason for approving the resolutions even though there are outstanding legal and claim issues against the bonding company, is that it allows us to finally access the state match money so we can ultimately finish the projects at Hilltop," he said. The Ilwaco Middle/High School project is about 96 percent complete, he said.

The sticking point, though, Houser said, is that the majority of the new windows at what was IMHS will have to be replaced because of problems with leaking. He said the issue is with specifications for the coast's notoriously wet and windy weather. "You can't just pop the windows in," he said, "so there were things that weren't done effectively. The last storm caused the leaks to show up."

And unless a long-term lease can be negotiated or a buyer found for the former Ilwaco High School, it will be mothballed or demolished, Houser said, to minimize expenses. The gym and locker rooms will be retained, however. "We would hope for a good long-term lease or possibly a sale," he said. "If not, somewhere down the line the decision may be made to demolish the school. We can't afford to pump money into it, but if the economy improves and someone is interested in it, it's a possibility it can continue to be used."

Enrollment in the district is still dropping and has been for about 10 years, Houser said, but "it should stabilize within another year or two to somewhere in the neighborhood of 825 to 850 students." Ten years ago, at the start of the 1998-99 school year, there were 1,322 students. The drop has been attributed to a variety of factors, including an aging population in coastal communities throughout the outer coastal zone of the Pacific Northwest.

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