Evergreen Public Schools seeks $695 million bond issue

Voters will weigh in on funding for district's ambitious plans in February election

By Katie Gillespie, Columbian Education Reporter

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The county’s largest school district will ask voters to approve a $695 million school bond issue next year.

Evergreen Public Schools, a district of more than 26,000 students, on Tuesday voted unanimously to put a bond measure on the Feb. 13 special election ballot. The district says it would also qualify for an additional $95 million in state matching funds as well as $12 million in local development impact fees, bringing the overall package to $802 million.

“It’s much needed structural improvements and safety improvements throughout our entire district and I’m excited for it,” board director Julie Bocanegra said.

If it’s approved — and 60 percent or more of Evergreen’s voters will need to support it — the district would make the following improvements:

• Build a new elementary school.

• Replace Sifton, Marion, Image, Burton and Ellsworth elementary schools.

• Replace Wy’east Middle School.

• Replace Mountain View and Legacy high schools.

• Construct a new addition to Heritage High School.

• Replace the district’s central offices.

• Replace the 49th Street Academy.

• Build a new facility for special education transition students.

• Install new turf at all district high schools.

• Make technology and building improvements across the district.

Superintendent John Steach said the proposal represents the culmination of several years of research and community input.

“We have several facilities that are in need of significant work,” he said.

Board Vice President Todd Yuzuriha called the bond measure “a great opportunity for us to improve upon safety for our students.”

“I’m really excited about this plan,” he said. “I think it’s a really good plan, and I’m excited to be able to talk to it.”

The east Vancouver district last ran a successful bond measure in 2002 for $167.9 million. In 2008, the district ran a $249.8 million bond measure that failed.

New property

The district voted to acquire two parcels of land, totaling about 19 acres, by eminent domain for new schools.

“At this time we need to exercise our right by condemnation,” Steach said.

The land include a 12.67-acre parcel that covers six lots across from Winco on the 1000 block of 136th Avenue. The second parcel is about 6.05 acres, covering four lots immediately south of that Winco.

Adding new property will accommodate future growth and allow the district to potentially build a new alternative secondary school in the future, Steach said. He noted Henrietta Lacks Health and Bioscience High School as a successful example of that approach in the district.

“That’s the direction we would want to go,” he said.