The Camas School Board last week approved a six-year capital facilities plan that includes an estimated $210 million worth of school facilities projects the district could need to serve a growing student population.
“We’re not obligated to do any of these,” the school district’s director of business services, Jasen McEathron, told school board members May 23. “We are talking about likely options we’ll need to address if we’re to deal with capacity issues.”
Camas School District voters passed a $120 million capital facilities bond in 2016 that helped build the district’s newest schools — Lacamas Lake Elementary School and Discovery High School — and increased building capacity across the elementary, middle and high school levels.
Now, McEathron said, two of the district’s three middle schools — Odyssey and Liberty — are starting to experience “some capacity constraints.”
“At Odyssey, the program is popping, and they’ve been very creative to accommodate students interested in being in that middle school program,” McEathron said. “There is some opportunity to potentially accommodate more students … but we could have two of three middle schools with capacity issues within the next six years.”
Though the district could get away with remodeling and adding portables to accommodate student growth over the next few years, McEathron said Camas “may have to entertain (building) another middle school” if housing development in the area “really takes off” between 2022 and 2028.
The district also may have some capacity issues at Camas’ largest elementary school, Woodburn, in the next few years, McEathron said.
The six-year facilities plan includes potential projects the district could seek funding for by 2028. The costs associated with all of the projects are estimates based on 2022 costs. Those projects include:
- $100 million to construct a new middle school, adding capacity for 850 students;
- $87 million to improve the “Leadbetter Campus” — a 57.6-acre site that includes the former Underwriters Laboratories commercial building — to add capacity for 500 students;
- $15 million for an Odyssey Middle School addition to accommodate 100 students;
- $7 million for property acquisition;
- $500,000 for a portable at Woodburn Elementary School that would add capacity for 48 students; and
- $500,000 for a portable at Liberty Middle School to accommodate 60 students.
Like other public school districts in Washington, Camas saw its student enrollment decline during 2020 and 2021, when public health mandates meant to slow the spread of COVID-19 shuttered school buildings.
Camas served 7,412 students in 2019 and 7,045 students in 2021. Current enrollment projections show the district expects “no further enrollment loss” and a gradual recovery to its pre-COVID numbers over the next four to five years, McEathron said.
The district’s enrollment forecast, prepared by Eric Hovee of E.D. Hovee & Company, LLC, in February 2020 and updated in December 2021, predicts Camas will gain 442 elementary, 142 middle and 105 high school students by 2028.
The capital facilities plan also addresses new development that could add students into the district over the next six years.
To help ensure new development helps pay for its associated infrastructure needs, the state’s Growth Management Act allows local governments to charge a one-time fee, or impact fee, on new developments to pay for things, such as school facilities, public streets, parks and fire stations.
The Camas School District calculates its impact fees using a formula that takes into consideration fee ordinances set by all of the jurisdictions — Camas, Washougal and Vancouver and Clark County — that feed into the school district.
The school board unanimously approved a slight increase to the district’s impact fees imposed on new single-family and multifamily residential developments: increasing the single-family and multifamily residential rates from $5,371 to $6,650.
On May 23, board members discussed increasing the multifamily residential impact fee to a rate closer to the $29,731 maximum allowable rate.
In the end, the board voted unanimously to keep the impact fee rates the same for single-family and multifamily residential developments. Both will be charged a one-time fee of $6,650 through 2028 to help pay for the added strain on the local school district’s facility needs.