Special election deadline is Jan. 12

Bond measures for two county school districts on ballot

By Justin Runquist, Columbian Small Cities Reporter

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The voter registration deadline is fast approaching for a special election on two Clark County school bond measures.

On Feb. 10, voters in the Washougal and Hockinson school districts will get a chance to weigh in on multimillion dollar proposals to build new schools and expand several campuses. Each proposal needs at least 60 percent approval from voters to pass, and Jan. 12 is the last day to register to vote in the election.

All mail-in registration forms must be postmarked to the Clark County Elections Department by that day, and online registrations at clarkvotes.org will stay open until midnight. For those who have never registered to vote in Washington state, the deadline to register in person is Feb. 2. Sign up at the elections office, 1408 Franklin St., Vancouver.

The Washougal measure would raise $57.7 million to build three new schools and enhance security around the district.

It follows a similar proposal that failed in 2008. This time, district officials are more confident in their pitch, given the signs of improvement the economy has shown since.

The largest slice of the pie — $47 million — would go toward replacing Jemtegaard Middle School and building an additional elementary school on the same site. Capacity would grow to about 600 students at the new middle school, and the elementary could house an additional 400.

On top of those two campuses, the district would replace the three small portable classrooms that comprise Excelsior, Washougal’s alternative high school. More than $4.8 million would go toward a new building with enough space for 90 students.

Another $2.3 million would be used to move Washougal’s bus barn to a new site with more space, and about $1.2 million would go into security upgrades.

In the Hockinson School District, administrators hope voters will support a $39.9 million measure to replace the aging middle school and expand the district’s other two campuses. Built more than 60 years ago, Hockinson Middle School is long overdue for safety and accessibility upgrades, district officials say.

Today, the school is also too small for the student population, with about 20 percent taking classes in portables, according to the district. The new campus would have room for 600 students.

Administrators anticipate they could offset about $3 million of the cost for the new middle school with state matching funds. After construction, the district would keep the current middle school open and repurpose the building to house the district’s special education program.

The district also plans to use some of the money to build new baseball and soccer fields, tennis courts, and practice rooms for wrestling and band students. A portion of the funding would go into a long-term study on improving security and adapting for enrollment growth at Hockinson Elementary.