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Clark Asks: State law prohibits breaking up school districts

Unless legislators change the 1999 law, Battle Ground Public Schools will remain intact

By , Columbian Education Reporter
Published: March 8, 2018, 6:00am
2 Photos
Battle Ground Public Schools was busy making plans in 2014 to erect portable buildings on campuses because of population growth in three areas, including near the Daybreak campus, shown here in November 2014. (The Columbian files)
Battle Ground Public Schools was busy making plans in 2014 to erect portable buildings on campuses because of population growth in three areas, including near the Daybreak campus, shown here in November 2014. (The Columbian files) Photo Gallery

“When will it be time for the Battle Ground Public Schools to be divided into smaller districts?”

The Battle Ground school district is, in some ways, as divided as its name implies.

Battle Ground Public Schools is Clark County’s largest geographical school district, spreading both in scale and culture from suburban Brush Prairie to rural Amboy and Yacolt. Its north and south ends — which are literally divided for the sake of school closures, as north campuses often see more snow — show clear rural-urban divide between support for school funding measures.

A Columbian reader, who wished to remain anonymous, posed the recent question to Clark Asks following the failure of last month’s school bond: “When will it be time for the Battle Ground Public Schools to be divided into smaller districts to better serve constituents?”

Whether smaller districts would better serve constituents is a subjective measure, one that, for now, will have to remain untested. A district cannot, under state law, divide and reorganize into multiple separate districts.

State law sets strict standards for the creation of new school districts. According to the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, new school districts can only be made of two or more whole school districts, parts of two or more districts, or territory that isn’t part of any district. So Battle Ground, for example, can’t be officially divided into its north and south schools as two new districts.

“The statute does not allow for the formation of a new district that is comprised solely of territory that currently lies within a single district,” said Dierk Meierbachtol, chief legal officer for OSPI.

So unless state law changes — and legislators haven’t shown any interest in changing the 1999 law — Battle Ground Public Schools will remain intact.

Battle Ground Public Schools once was multiple small districts. According to the district website, two single-school districts, Maple Grove and Dublin, consolidated into the Battle Ground school district about a century ago. Since then, the district has absorbed 54 smaller districts, most recently Yacolt in 1975. The consolidation has resulted in a 273-square-mile district that covers about a quarter of the county, with 18 schools spread across the area.

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