Battle Ground $80M school bond falls short

Money would have been used to build, replace buildings

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The Battle Ground School District’s $80 million bond was falling short of the mark after first returns came in Tuesday night.

The bond needs 60 percent to pass, and 12,202 residents voted in favor, but that places the measure at just 53.05 percent approval among 23,001 votes cast.

“It’s unlikely we’re going to get to the 60 percent supermajority,” Superintendent Mark Hottowe said. “It’s nice to see a majority of residents voted in favor, but it doesn’t look like we’re going to make it.”

Hottowe added that a third of ballots have yet to be counted, but in his years as an educator, he hasn’t seen a measure jump to 60 percent approval after lagging this far in initial returns.

“The community believes we need to go a while before we can come back and ask to build new schools,” he said.

Hottowe also said the school board didn’t discuss when to put up another bond for vote should this one fail, so he’s not sure when the district might turn to the public for assistance again.

“In the meanwhile, we will continue our best to educate the children of our community and provide the best school buildings we can,” Hottowe said. “We’ll do our best to take care of the buildings, old or not.”

The bond money would have gone to build or replace several schools. Student learning and safety have been compromised as a result of the out-of-date buildings, according to officials.

The new facilities are needed to accommodate the rapid population growth expected to affect the district. The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction reported district enrollment at 13,477 students in May. Current schools are not able to handle that level of enrollment, officials said, with some classrooms exceeding state recommendations for class size by as many as 10 students.

The district expects to add another 2,000 students over the next 10 years, as another 3,500 homes are built.

The district is working with the county on some temporary relief, Hottowe said, by connecting a sewer line to the Glenwood-Laurin campus. The campus currently is on a septic tank, which doesn’t have the capacity to handle more students. Once connected to the sewer, the campus can accommodate a 10-classroom modular unit, which would also include more restrooms.

Hottowe said it’s possible if everything is worked out, the modular unit could be added as early as next summer. A similar unit was added to the Pleasant Valley campus this past summer.

Earlier this month, the district purchased 20 acres of property in the southeast portion of the district, west of Northeast 152nd Avenue between Northeast 99th and Northeast 110th streets. Hottowe said district officials hope to build a new K-4th grade and 5th-8th grade campus on that parcel when funds become available.