Washougal schools to break ground on projects

Work to begin on new Excelsior High, transportation site

By Adam Littman, Columbian Staff Writer

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The Washougal School District will break ground on two new buildings Tuesday before the district’s school board meeting.

At 5 p.m., the district will have a groundbreaking ceremony for a new $2.3 million transportation facility, which will be built near the district office, 4855 Evergreen Way, Washougal. Guests can then hop on a bus for the 5:30 p.m. groundbreaking ceremony for a $4.8 million project to replace Excelsior High School, 1401 39th St., Washougal. The bus also will take guests back to the district office for the 6:30 p.m. board meeting.

The two projects are part of the $57.7 million capital improvement bond Washougal voters passed in 2015 to address safety and facility needs in the district. Along with the two new buildings, the bond will pay for a new elementary school and replace Jemtegaard Middle School, as well as safety upgrades throughout the district.

Washougal Facilities Director Joe Steinbrenner said all projects are still on schedule to open on time, with the three schools slated to open for the start of the 2017-2018 school year. He said the new transportation building should be ready for occupancy around May 2017.

The current transportation building is too small, said Superintendent Mike Stromme. The new building will fit all of the district’s school buses, with room for future growth. It also will house a new maintenance shop with three bus bays and room for the transportation supervisor and entire transportation team, Stromme said. He added that the current transportation building is from the early 1940s.

Excelsior is an alternative high school with about 55 students, Stromme said. The new school, which will be roughly 10,400 square feet, will have room for about 90 students. It’s part of the Washougal High School campus, just a bit north of the main high school. Next year, while the new building is under construction, the Excelsior students will be moved into Washougal High School, which, Stromme said, could give the district a chance to see how the Excelsior academic program is working in getting students ready for graduation and life after high school.

While the groundbreaking ceremonies are Tuesday, construction is expected to start June 20 on Excelsior and around July 8 for the transportation building, Steinbrenner said.

“It’s exciting when you get to the groundbreaking because it means all the other pieces in the timeline are falling into place,” Stromme said.