Camas school bond on table Monday

Board members will decide on public vote regarding proposed new high school on campus

By Brooks Johnson, Columbian Business Reporter

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Camas might be getting a new high school, though there will be no Papermaker partitioning.

On Monday night, the Camas school board will decide whether to put a $120 million bond before voters in February.

Part of that bond would pay for a new school on the Camas High School campus. While separate from CHS, the new high school would not be its own comprehensive institution.

“It will be a small learning community, and there will be some opportunities for crossover,” district spokeswoman Doreen McKercher said. “Students will be able to enroll there based on interest.”

For extracurriculars, CHS would still be the banner school for the district, so students at the new school could participate in sports and drama just as Hayes Freedom High School students do now.

The focus for the new, as-yet-unnamed high school is on science and technology, though it may not be a strictly STEM school.

“It’s going to be a community process to define it,” McKercher said. “There may be an artistic or design element, as well.”

The bond would cost taxpayers $0.48 per $1,000 of assessed home value. That would raise the bond tax on a $150,000 home by $72 a year; homeowners with an assessed value of $500,000 would pay an extra $240 per year.

For that money, many have asked why the district wouldn’t just build a new high school.

“We don’t have the bonding capacity to build a second comprehensive high school, and we don’t have the land right now — we need at least 50 acres of manageable land and we don’t own that currently,” McKercher said. “A third reason is we don’t really have enough students to offer two high-quality, high-caliber programs like we have now at CHS.”

Although, with Camas’ continued growth, a new comprehensive school could be possible in the next decade. McKercher said that will likely be the next bond put before voters in five to eight years.

“We’ve been meeting or exceeding the high growth projections (for years),” she said.

Another big project the proposed bond will pay for is a new Lacamas Heights Elementary School. Lacamas Heights will move to the north side of the lake, leaving empty the current school on the CHS campus.

The bond also provides for security upgrades and help restoring the Joyce Garver Auditorium, which has been closed since 2009 due to seismic report.

If the bond passes in the Feb. 9 election, the new high school and Lacamas Heights could be open as soon as fall 2018.