What's new at Clark County schools

By Susan Parrish and Justin Runquist

Published:

 

First day of school

Battle Ground Sept. 3

Camas Sept. 2

Evergreen Sept. 3

Green Mountain Aug. 27

Hockinson Sept. 3

La Center Aug. 27

Ridgefield Sept. 3

Vancouver Sept. 3

Washougal Sept. 2

Woodland Sept. 3

Students returning to school this fall might notice some changes. Battle Ground has a new superintendent, and there’s a new football field in La Center. Some districts are building to meet growing student populations or trying out new programs in technology, epidemiology, aviation and homeland security.

Here’s a breakdown of what’s new:

Battle Ground

Battle Ground’s new superintendent, Mark Hottowe, began working July 1. The district was led by an interim superintendent and interim deputy superintendent the previous school year. Hottowe has reorganized the administrative office and put emphasis on student achievement.

Pleasant Valley Middle School will pilot a new Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics program called Gateway to Technology. The school’s wood shop has been remodeled to include new tools and a classroom for project-based teams to work on these six STEM areas: design and modeling, automation and robotics, energy in the environment, flight in space, magic of electrons and science of technology. The classes are under the direction of the Career and Technical Education department.

Camas

For the first time in its history, Camas High School will exceed 2,000 students this year.

Principal Steve Marshall announced the news in a letter sent out to parents last week. The original 216,662-square-foot building was constructed in 2003 and designed to accommodate 1,792 students.

Since then, the district has expanded the building to more than 243,000 square feet and added several portable classrooms to ease the overcrowding. Funding for the expansion came from a $90 million construction bond approved by voters in 2007.

By the end of last school year, the district had more than 20 portable classrooms. With long-term continued growth in mind, the district is looking at ways to accommodate much larger student populations for years to come.

Going into the new school year, Camas High School has already added eight more teachers than it had last year.

Evergreen

About 18 months after Crestline Elementary School was destroyed by arson, the new Crestline opens at the original site. It has all the bells and whistles. It has 40 interior and exterior security cameras, a state-of-the-art fire-suppression system and lockdown buttons for security.

Beginning its second year, Henrietta Lacks Health and Bioscience High School adds juniors. With the addition of upperclassmen, more complex classes will be taught. Susie Ridgway, the school’s human anatomy and physiology teacher, will begin teaching perhaps the state’s first high school epidemiology course. Ridgway was trained at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention over the summer.

The Clark County Skills Center has completed its new building, which will house the new aviation and homeland security programs.

The district is opening four new Family and Community Resource Centers at Crestline, Orchards, Burton and Marion elementary schools. They join the existing center at Silver Star Elementary.

Previously, the district had one Early Childhood Center tucked behind Burton Elementary. This year, Evergreen has centers at Crestline, Orchards and Hearthwood elementary schools.

Hockinson

This fall, the Hockinson School District will welcome a number of new employees.

In all, the new hires include several teachers from kindergarten to high school, a librarian, an assistant cross country coach and a counselor for Hockinson High School. The district also hired a new custodian and an art teacher for kindergarten through fifth grade at Hockinson Heights Elementary, Superintendent Sandra Yager said.

Kelly Macdonald moved into a new position as the assistant principal of Hockinson Middle School. And Ingrid Colvard will hold that role at Hockinson Heights. Both Macdonald and Colvard will also work part time in student services.

La Center

More than 150 volunteers in the La Center community have come together this year, scurrying to put the final touches on a brand new high school football field.

The project was a dream decades in the making for the community, Superintendent Mark Mansell said. And it wouldn’t have come together without the help of numerous staff, faculty, students, alumni and many other fans of La Center sports.

“It’s pretty phenomenal how the community has come together and done this project for our kids,” Mansell said. “The selflessness and the tremendous passion that’s gone into this project is something that cuts across our community.”

Many have donated money or lent a hand in building the new stadium and football field, which also will be used for soccer. Project organizers plan to add a track and a roof in the coming years.

Until this season, the Wildcats played their home games at the district’s much smaller middle school field. Crews broke ground on the new stadium earlier this year, and Josh Soske, the project manager, said the field is ready to go for the school’s home opener Sept. 12.

Soske estimates the project could have cost as much as $1.8 million, but the La Center Education Foundation managed to get it all done for about $400,000.

Ridgefield

Construction is close to wrapping up on several major projects at Ridgefield schools.

The final product will be the result of a $47 million construction bond that voters approved in 2012 to address overcrowding. The district’s schools surpassed their enrollment limits several years ago, and city officials say more projects could be in the mix for the coming years as Ridgefield continues to rank among the fastest-growing cities in the state.

Altogether, the district has used the money to add new classrooms, cafeterias, gyms and a revamped football field next to Ridgefield High School.

This summer, crews continued hammering away on projects at the high school, South Ridge Elementary and the shared site of Union Ridge Elementary and View Ridge Middle schools. The latest construction report from district officials shows all the projects being more than 85 percent complete.

The district also welcomes new superintendent Nathan McCann this fall. McCann emerged as the favorite among about 30 applicants in March. He replaces Art Edgerly, who retired this summer after more than three decades in public education.

Vancouver

Now beginning its third year, Vancouver iTech Preparatory, a magnet school with a STEM focus, will expand to include grades six through 11. The middle school is housed at the Jim Parsley Education, Family and Community Center; the high school is in the Clark College Building at Washington State University Vancouver.

As the district’s one-to-one student computing model continues, about 3,100 students at Discovery, Gaiser, Jason Lee and Jefferson middle schools will receive iPads. Teachers at all district high schools and Vancouver School of Arts and Academics will receive iPads and professional development training in preparation for the following school year, when their students will receive iPads. Voters approved the district’s technology levy in February 2013.

Construction is nearly complete at Sarah J. Anderson and Eleanor Roosevelt elementary schools. Each campus is adding six classrooms to help alleviate overcrowding and to eliminate the need for 10 portable classroom units. Both projects were paid for through the capital projects fund, which includes the last of the phase-three bonds approved in 2001.

Washougal

This fall, Washougal schools will roll out the next big expansion of the district’s iPad program.

The program integrates the popular tablet computers into instruction and problem-solving activities. Teachers have incorporated them into their daily lesson plans, hoping to keep their students more engaged in the curriculum.

Last year, the district put iPads in the hands of about 500 students in fifth and sixth grade at a cost of about $280,000. The pilot program began in 2012 with just 90 fifth-grade students using the devices.

This year, the program will grow to include nearly 1,200 students, expanding to seventh- and eighth-graders. The expansion will continue over the next four years until the district eventually extends its technology initiative to all grades.

Lester Brown, the district’s technology director, said in a statement to The Columbian that students using the tablets have shown promising results in the classroom.

“Districtwide, we continue to see high levels of student interest and engagement in lessons designed using the iPads,” Brown said. “The data from our initial pilot showed increases in student test scores in math, science and reading using the state test as the benchmark.”

In the coming years, funding for the program will come from the district’s technology levy, which voters approved in February.

Woodland

By the end of the 2014-2015 school year, Woodland High School students will say goodbye to the campus they’ve come to know.

Construction continues on schedule at the district’s new high school, on Dike Access Road. The current campus was built in 1953 and the student population has easily outgrown the place in recent years.

Crews broke ground on the project last year, and Superintendent Michael Green said he expects their work to wrap up before students return to class in fall 2015. The district is aiming for a completion date of July 17, 2015.

“It’s gone very smoothly, and it’s staying within budget and within schedule, the way we like to see it,” Green said.

Two years ago, voters approved a $52.8 million bond to replace the old high school. In the past decade, student enrollment has stayed around 600 or more. The new building will be able to accommodate 900 students, and 300 more with the addition of portables.