Vancouver Public Schools will start the new year with a series of public forums to address the proposed removal of an elementary school from its slate of bond-funded projects.
District voters approved a $458 million bond to build new schools and improve existing facilities throughout the district, with another $93 million in state matching funds and grants bringing the total project budget to $551 million.
But officials at the 23,000-student district say a proposed new neighborhood elementary school, located at 8614 N.E. 25th Ave., is no longer economically feasible or needed in light of declining enrollment. The district said that a 6 percent inflation in the cost of construction materials and labor is “higher than expected,” necessitating adjustments to the list of bond projects.
The campus, if built, would draw students from five surrounding elementary schools: Dwight D. Eisenhower, Hazel Dell, Minnehaha, Sarah J. Anderson and Walnut Grove. Collective enrollment at the five schools has steadily declined in the last five years from 3,146 students in 2014-2015 to 2,996 students in 2018-2019, according to data from the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction.
The district was slated to approve the changes to its construction plan in November, but delayed the decision until next year after questions about whether it had sufficiently communicated its plans to the public.
The decision is also notable for the shifting political dynamic of the school board: three new board members, Kyle Sproul, Tracie Barrows and Kathy Decker, were sworn in this month. The three previously said in a joint letter that the district’s proposed elimination of the project would be “hasty, if not reckless” before collecting more feedback.
Information about the project will be presented at forums at each of the five affected elementary schools on the following dates:
• 6 p.m., Jan. 8, Minnehaha Elementary School, 2800 N.E. 54th St., Vancouver.
• 6 p.m., Jan. 15, Walnut Grove Elementary School, 6103 N.E. 72nd Ave., Vancouver.
• 6 p.m., Jan. 27, Anderson Elementary School, 2215 N.E. 104th St., Vancouver.
• 6 p.m., Jan. 30, Hazel Dell Elementary School, 511 N.E. Anderson Road., Vancouver.
• 6 p.m., Feb. 6, Eisenhower Elementary School, 9201 N.W. 9th Ave., Vancouver.