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News / Clark County News

Sifton breaks ground on new elementary school campus

Rebuild marks Evergreen Public Schools’ first major project using 2018 bond money

By Katie Gillespie, Columbian Education Reporter
Published: April 24, 2019, 9:30pm
4 Photos
Students from Sifton Elementary School break ground Wednesday on the site of a future elementary school campus during a school assembly in Vancouver.
Students from Sifton Elementary School break ground Wednesday on the site of a future elementary school campus during a school assembly in Vancouver. Alisha Jucevic/The Columbian Photo Gallery

Evergreen Public Schools celebrated its past and looked forward to its future on Wednesday, commemorating the 60th anniversary of Sifton Elementary School while breaking ground on its new campus.

Sifton Elementary, a 480-student campus at 7301 N.E. 137th Ave. in the Orchards area, is the school district’s oldest campus — and the first to be rebuilt as part of the district’s $800 million construction campaign.

Students, staff and families gathered beneath an aging covered play structure with chipping red paint for a groundbreaking ceremony complete with golden shovels and kids in hard hats.

“We’re a very special community, and you are very special people who deserve better,” Principal Angie Mitchell told the crowd.

Voters approved a $695 million bond measure in February 2018 to construct new schools, retrofit existing facilities and add an additional elementary school campus. State matching funds and impact fees bring the overall price tag to $800 million.

The district has completed some smaller projects already, including upgrading heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems.

But the groundbreaking at Sifton marks the district’s first major construction project. Three new elementary schools are slated to open in the fall of 2020: Sifton, Image and the new, as-of-yet unnamed elementary school at Northeast 39th Street and Northeast 162nd Avenue.

Another three elementary schools — Marrion, Ellsworth and Burton — will follow, as well as rebuilds of Wy’east Middle School and Mountain View High School. A new wing will be added to Heritage High School to replace portables.

Renderings of the new elementary schools from Vancouver firm LSW Architects show airy campuses flooded with natural light. At Sifton, the two-story campus will be built directly behind the current building.

“I’m really excited to be able to look behind me and see a brand new school,” said Superintendent Mike Merlino, who also thanked voters and volunteers for supporting the bond.

Also on the major project list is a rebuild of the district’s central administration office and alternative learning programs, Legacy High School and 49th Street Academy.

While it’s still early in the process, district officials say they’re optimistic they may be able to speed up the construction timeline.

“Actually, knock on wood, we’ve been able to move some projects up,” said Gail Spolar, district spokeswoman.

All projects are slated for completion by 2024. But Susan Steinbrenner, the district’s executive director of facilities, said the longer it takes to complete construction, the more construction costs are likely to increase.

“We’re trying to be conservative in the long-term cost,” she said.

Columbian Education Reporter