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News / Clark County News

Special election for Ridgefield school bond likely to be postponed

By Katie Gillespie, Columbian Education Reporter
Published: March 23, 2020, 4:57pm

The Ridgefield School District is poised to cancel its upcoming bond vote due to continued concerns about the novel coronavirus.

District Superintendent Nathan McCann said the school board on Tuesday will consider postponing its $40.5 million school bond back to the August or November ballots. The initiative was initially slated to appear on the April 28 ballot, but ongoing concerns about health and safety are causing the school district to rethink that plan.

“Our energy needs to be focused elsewhere,” McCann said.

Jim Maul, co-chair of the Citizens for Ridgefield Schools, added that the committee can’t run a grassroots campaign in a time of social distancing. Door-to-door canvassing and public forums are out, he said.

“We’re going to rely on those volunteers and everyone has different priorities,” Maul said. “I think it would be very difficult to run.”

In neighboring Woodland Public Schools, Superintendent Michael Green is hesitant to make a similar call. That school district is running a replacement operations levy that would generate about $17,250,000 in revenue over the next three years.

Green said the district would be faced with making $3 million in cuts next school year if the levy fails. By state statute and union contract, those decisions have to be made by May 15 — well before the next available election date of August 4.

“If we don’t have that funding guaranteed, then we have to be in the position of reducing staff,” Green said.

Still, districts may not have a choice in the matter. Secretary of State Kim Wyman, the elected Republican who oversees elections in Washington, sent a letter to Gov. Jay Inslee last week urging him to cancel the April 28 election.

“From courthouse closures, to workforce reductions of election staff, postal staff, or disruptions with vendors who support election operations, circumstances outside of our control could make it impossible for counties to meet statutory election requirements,” Wyman wrote.

Clark County Auditor Greg Kimsey, a Republican, joined 36 other county auditors in signing onto the letter. Kimsey said the office needs to focus on keeping its employees safe as it gears up for the November presidential election.

“We’re telling people our first priority is for you to keep yourself healthy,” Kimsey said. “We also want to serve the public, and we want to keep our employees to the extent we have work for them to do.”

Kimsey also noted that Elections Office employees don’t have the ability to work from home. Employees were in the office as recently as Friday, certification day, completing the count from the March 10 presidential primary.

“These are very dedicated people who absolutely understand the importance of the work they’re doing,” Kimsey said. “We had lots of hand sanitizer and lots of gloves.”

The Clark County Elections Office closed to the public on March 17, meaning no one can register to vote in person. Mail-in and online registration are still available. Visit clark.wa.gov/elections for more information.

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Columbian Education Reporter