Ridgefield school bond set for ballot

Feb. measure will seek $78 million for district

By Adam Littman, Columbian Staff Writer

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RIDGEFIELD — School officials are hoping residents show them some love on Valentine’s Day, when the district holds a special bond vote.

School board members voted 5-0 at Tuesday night’s meeting in favor of putting a $78 million bond up for vote on Feb. 14, 2017.

The proceeds would go to construct $98.5 million worth of projects, the biggest being a new campus with two schools, one for fifth- and sixth-graders and another for seventh- and eighth-graders. The money would also build an expansion at Ridgefield High School, provide security enhancements at Union Ridge Elementary School and South Ridge Elementary School, repurpose View Ridge Middle School and build an outdoor sports complex. The new school campus and sports complex will be located across South Hillhurst Road from the high school. The sports complex is a joint project with the city.

To pay for the $98.5 million construction program, $77.965 million would come from the bond proceeds, $15.5 million would come from state matching funds, and the district would save $5.035 million by working with the city on the sports complex.

The school district faces booming enrollment thanks to the city’s increasing population. All four schools are over capacity by at least 130 students, and the district has seen enrollment increase by around 13 percent since the end of last school year, according to Superintendent Nathan McCann.

The bond money would bring in about 1,300 new classroom seats, and also help alleviate congestion in downtown Ridgefield, as it would move students from View Ridge downtown to the new campus on South Hillhurst Road. View Ridge would most likely be repurposed to consolidate district administration, expand community learning and possibly add an early childhood center, McCann said.

This upcoming bond request is Phase II of the district’s four-phase plan. The first phase was the 2012 bond approved by voters, and last year, the district set up a Capital Facilities Advisory Committee to come up with a plan for how the district could look in 2035. The committee, made up of about 30 community members, submitted a plan that more than doubled the number of schools in the district.

According to the plan, in 20 years Ridgefield would have four elementary schools at 600 to 650 students each, two fifth- and sixth-grade schools at 500 to 550 students each, two seventh- and eighth-grade schools at 500 to 550 students each, one high school at 1,600 to 1,800 students, one alternative high school at 100 to 200 students and one specialty high school at 100 to 200 students that is potentially on a partner site, like the new Clark College campus coming to the city.

However, for that to happen, students need to move into the district first.

“We’re not going to overbuild,” McCann said. “We will never build a building we don’t absolutely need while I’m the superintendent.”

McCann said the new grade 5-8 campus could be restructured if enrollment doesn’t keep increasing as expected. He said it’s important for the district to come up with a plan, but remain flexible.

The next step for district officials will be continuing to educate the public about the bond vote and what the money will be used for so by the time February rolls around, the community knows what it’ll be voting for.