Hope grows for Woodland schools bond

Officials: Approval in Ridgefield bodes well




Woodland Public Schools Superintendent Michael Green

On the heels of Ridgefield’s long-awaited school bond success, Woodland school officials expressed optimism Wednesday that their neighbor’s positive result was an omen for their April bond proposal to pay for a new high school.

The Woodland Public Schools has proposed a $52.8 million bond measure to build a new, 147,000-square-foot high school that would alleviate overcrowding, outdated facilities and lackluster core facilities seen in the current decades-old school, officials said.

Built in the 1950s, Woodland’s 82,310-square-foot high school has 14 portable buildings and features an open campus design that raises safety concerns.

For all its facility’s shortcomings, Woodland High School remains one of the area’s better schools, officials said, pointing to the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction’s recent announcement that the high school had earned a Washington Achievement Award. Newer facilities could propel the school to even greater heights, officials noted.

“It is a need-based request,” Superintendent Michael Green said of the bond. “That is our greatest need — to update a high school built when washing machines were reaching wide adoption. Now, we’re in a different world.”

Woodland voters rejected a $49.4 million construction bond in 2008, three years after supporting a $3.75 million bond to purchase land for a new high school west of Walmart.

The construction bond had the misfortune of being pitched near the recession’s beginning, Green said. While the recession has not lifted, Green observed Wednesday there were promising signs around the area that people were willing to invest in schools again.

Ridgefield overcame its own woeful bond history and economic concerns to pass a $47 million bond promising added classrooms and gyms at its four schools, plus traffic flow improvements. Prior to Tuesday, voters in the district had rejected five straight building or remodeling bonds.

In addition to Ridgefield, all five levies proposed by Clark County school districts passed Tuesday, including Woodland’s.

Green will hold a brown bag lunch at noon March 7 at Woodland High and will offer a tour of the school. Over the following three weeks, Green will hold four round-table discussions at area schools to discuss the bond measure. Ballots are due by April 17.

Woodland residents are currently paying $3.53 per $1,000 of assessed home value for school bonds and levies, Green said. That would rise to around $4.64 per $1,000, with the passage of the bond related to the high school.

The fact that this April’s bond proposal costs $3.4 million more than its 2008 predecessor could make it a tougher sell, Woodland High School Principal John Shoup said. The project’s scope is larger because it is possible to get more bang for dollars spent than it was in 2008.

“The timing is perfect,” Shoup said. “Interest rates are at historic lows and construction costs are at historic lows.”

The current high school holds 650 students. The school’s gym does not have enough space for all of the students and faculty, much less parents of students.The new high school would hold up to 900 students, allowing it to meet the community’s needs 10 to 12 years into the future, Green said. The high school would also be expandable to hold up to 1,200 or more students, the superintendent added.

You can learn more about the Woodland school bond and the round-table discussions at www.woodland.wednet.edu.

Ray Legendre: 360-735-4517; www.facebook.com/raylegend; www.twitter.com/col_smallcities; ray.legendre@columbian.com.