Ridgefield voters say yes to schools

Bond issue will raise about $100 million for construction

By Adam Littman, Columbian Staff Writer

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Ridgefield School District’s $78 million bond issue is passing with 68 percent of votes in favor after results from the special election came in Tuesday night.

“Great schools and great communities are linked,” Ridgefield Superintendent Nathan McCann said. “This is another example of the entire community pulling together to further Ridgefield.”

The district needed a minimum of 3,744 votes, and 60 percent plus one vote approval, to secure the bond measure, and easily met both tests.

“I’m thrilled with the turnout, and really thrilled with the overwhelming support from the Ridgefield community,” McCann said. “This was the culmination of 18 months of work and community engagement. This has the fingerprints of thousands of people.”

The bond money will leverage nearly $100 million in construction projects. The bond proceeds will be teamed with $15.5 million from state matching money and $5.035 million in savings by working with the city on a sports complex.

The biggest project is a new campus broken into two schools: one for fifth- and sixth-graders, and another for seventh- and eighth-graders. The two schools will share some services, and will be across South Hillhurst Road from Ridgefield High School on property the district already owns.

“We had a construction meeting (Tuesday) about the new 5-8 campus,” McCann said. “We started the design early to help with some inflation costs. Our plan has been to get the new campus ready for August 2018. We’re still on schedule for that.”

Other proceeds from the bond measure will pay for an expansion at the high school, allowing the district to build a new building with rooms for science, special education, fine arts, general education and a library/media center. Bond money will also provide security upgrades to Union Ridge Elementary School and South Ridge Elementary schools.

The district will partner with the city to build a sports complex next to the new 5-8 campus. The district will use the complex for athletic teams and physical education classes, although no bond money will go toward the sports complex.

Building the new 5-8 campus will allow the district to repurpose View Ridge Middle School, moving students out of the already crowded downtown Ridgefield. The district plans on using the View Ridge building to expand its community education program, and has started discussions with multiple agencies to find a partner to bring new programs to downtown.

McCann said there’s a possibility of bringing an early childhood development program to View Ridge, and he has talked to the Fort Vancouver Regional Library District representatives about using the space. Some of the building would also be used to consolidate district administrative and support services, which are currently spread around the district.

One of the biggest reasons the district opted to pursue a bond measure was to deal with overcrowding. All four schools in the district are currently over capacity. Prior to results coming out Tuesday night, the district’s board of directors voted to buy new modular classrooms for all four schools. The district’s current enrollment is around 2,740, and it’s estimated to reach 7,200 in 2035, although McCann said the district’s recent growth is eclipsing that rate.