Battle Ground school board to vote on bond proposal

$225M measure could be on February ballot

By Katie Gillespie, Columbian Education Reporter

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Voters in the Battle Ground school district could again consider a school bond to replace and repair aging facilities — this time with a higher price tag than requested last year.

The Battle Ground Public Schools board of directors will today vote on whether to submit a nearly $225 million bond proposition over 21 years to voters in a special election on Feb. 13.

The district last went out for a bond in November 2016, that time in the amount of $80 million — just over a third of the amount the district could request now. The bond received 55.43 percent of the 32,386 votes cast, but bonds require 60 percent approval to pass.

Superintendent Mark Ross said higher construction costs, and additional projects, contributed to the higher bond proposition.

In the aftermath of last year’s bond failure, the district consulted the Facilities Improvement Team, a group made up of district citizens and staff, to determine the needs of the district. Overcrowding and safety concerns prompted the group to request a similar package of replacements and improvements.

“We’re looking at needs,” Ross said. “They’re not fantasy wish lists.”

Ross said the new bond proposal, if approved, includes the same projects as last year’s, such as new primary and middle schools to replace Glenwood Heights Primary and Laurin Middle School campus, and the Pleasant Valley Primary and Middle School campus at the district’s south end. The district has targeted those campuses for reconstruction because they are among the oldest buildings in the district, and because their enrollment has exceeded their building capacity.

The district is also eyeing a new CAM Academy campus at Northeast 199th Street, which would include building a multipurpose building and modular classrooms. The district currently leases a building at 715 N.E. Onsdorff for that school. There were, as of May 2017, 538 students enrolled at the third grade through senior year campus.

The district must also add space to elementary schools to comply with state-mandated reductions in class size for kindergarten through third grade, Ross said. Those classrooms must have no more than 17 students in them by the 2018-2019 school year.

School construction costs since 2016, Ross said, have increased, in some cases from $290 to $400 per square foot.

“Looking at the last time we ran the bond, construction costs have dramatically increased,” he said.

The school board will meet at 6 p.m. today at the Lewisville Campus at 406 N.W. 5th Ave., Battle Ground.