RIDGEFIELD — Her voice came from a corner hidden behind stacks of boxes: “I’ve got a great fort going,” Bonnie Harris joked.
Harris, executive secretary to Ridgefield School District Superintendent Nathan McCann, poked her head out from behind the boxes that had her name or McCann’s name written on them.
Thursday was moving day for the Ridgefield district’s administrative offices, as they relocated from a portable building outside Ridgefield High School to the repurposed View Ridge Middle School building downtown.
At the start of the 2018-2019 school year, the district opened a 5-8 campus with the new Sunset Ridge Intermediate School and replacement View Ridge Middle School, moving students from a growing downtown to South Hillhurst Road.
The district looked at various options for the old View Ridge site, including allowing the Ridgefield Community Library to move in, and eventually decided to repurpose the space in a joint project with the city of Ridgefield. The former middle school site, now known as the Ridgefield Administration and Civic Center, will house district offices, a few city departments, a board room for city council and school board meetings, and meeting space for other community groups.
“A lot of work has gone into this the past few months,” McCann told the board members while showing them around the building. “There was a lot of partnership with the city on this.”
The school board hosted its first meeting in the repurposed building Thursday morning, while crews continued to work to have the space ready. District officials will operate out of the space when school returns after winter break.
The board room wasn’t ready, however, so the school board and McCann sat around a table in the superintendent’s office for the brief meeting. There weren’t any flags there yet, either, so they recited the Pledge of Allegiance while looking at a framed picture of the American flag or a student painting of the flag with handprints as the red stripes.
Two items they voted on dealt with the lease agreement and interlocal agreement with the city for use of the building. Both passed unanimously after Ridgefield city councilors approved both ordinances at their Dec. 20 meeting. The agreement between the entities is for 30 years.
The school district will retain ownership of the Ridgefield Administrative and Civic Center, and the city will not pay monthly rent to the district. Instead, the city will pay a proportional share of monthly maintenance and custodial costs for its portion of the building and shared space. Maintenance to city offices will be the sole responsibility of the city. The parties will annually review and adjust the city’s share of maintenance and custodial costs. For 2019, the city will pay 36 percent of monthly maintenance and custodial costs. It will also pay a share of the monthly utilities to the district, starting at 36 percent for 2019 and also reviewed annually.
Additionally, the city will pay the district a total of $2,472,929 for renovations. The city’s first payment will be for $750,000 and will be made before the end of the year. The city will pay the remaining sum in 15 equal payments of $114,862 per year, due the final day of each year.
“This is really maximizing taxpayer dollars,” said Joseph Vance, a school board member. “It’s an excellent use of resources and making the most of the space.”
McCann envisions that the center will be used by other local groups for meetings, as the city will be in need of additional meeting space. Earlier this year, Fort Vancouver Regional Library District’s Board of Trustees voted to accept the donation of the Ridgefield Community Center building to expand the library. The two buildings are attached, and the community center was used as a meeting space for many groups and agencies, including the city council.
“We want these other entities in here,” McCann said. “We’d love to see other groups using the space.”
As per the agreements between the city and district, the district will collect income from third parties renting the board room or other space in the repurposed View Ridge building, and will use it toward costs the district and city share, such as maintenance and custodial costs.
McCann said he also hopes to partner with a local coffee shop to provide a place in the building for people to get their morning coffee — and a space for students to hang out after school. He would like that business to partner with the district, he said, to offer students an opportunity to gain work experience, and marketing and entrepreneur students to learn about running a business.