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News / Clark County News

Woodland schools back on right track after levy passage but funding hurdles remain for next year

By Griffin Reilly, Columbian staff writer
Published: March 5, 2024, 6:04am
4 Photos
Runners compete in the 1,600-meter race May 10 during the Southwest Washington Middle School League championship meet at Woodland High School. After a double levy failure in 2023, Woodland Public Schools cut about $3 million in supplemental funding, including funding for middle school sports such as track and field.  Woodland leaders are now hopeful middle school sports can return in 2025 with renewed levy funding.
Runners compete in the 1,600-meter race May 10 during the Southwest Washington Middle School League championship meet at Woodland High School. After a double levy failure in 2023, Woodland Public Schools cut about $3 million in supplemental funding, including funding for middle school sports such as track and field. Woodland leaders are now hopeful middle school sports can return in 2025 with renewed levy funding. (Photos by Taylor Balkom/The Columbian files) Photo Gallery

After a dark and difficult year, Woodland Public Schools’ leaders are processing a complicated range of emotions.

Earlier this month, the district passed an educational operations levy to begin collections in 2025. The levy — like most other supplemental levies in school districts across Washington — would fund additional staff positions and extracurricular programs not funded by the state.

Despite the levy’s passage, however, Woodland isn’t clear of all its hurdles just yet. Because collections on the new levy can’t start for another nine months and the district has exhausted its pandemic-era federal relief funding, the district will still have to plan for a budget deficit next year. Only in the 2025-2026 school year will the impact of the renewed levy funding be truly felt, Superintendent Michael Green said.

“We still have to make some pretty sizable reductions in order to maintain fiscal solvency,” Green said.

Even so, February’s levy passage puts the district back on track. Woodland was forced to cut $3 million from its budget after a double levy failure last year. The cuts included several classroom teachers, custodians and extracurricular programs for students, such as middle school athletics.

“There’s a sense from a lot of people that we could just get rid of the fluff,” Green said. “But the reality for schools is that we don’t have a lot of fluff.”

Green said he thinks this time around, voters realized what they were being asked to support after a year without local funding.

“People in the community recognized the huge negative impact of a levy loss. That combined with a very active and motivated group of parents who wanted better for their kids made the difference,” he said.

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Community support

Athena Scott serves as a leader in Woodland’s Parent-Teacher-Student Organization and has four children enrolled in the district. She said the impact of not having a levy took her by surprise, even as an informed parent who thought she knew what to expect.

“What’s lacking is the shortage of paraeducators that can do basic things to help teachers,” she said. “They have to be the eyes and ears on a school campus.”

The lack of nurses and janitors at every school, too, has been a big issue she’s heard from her kids.

“Kids who have medications for certain things are scrambling. Teachers are having to triage for their students,” Scott said. “That alone is really difficult. To have a teacher text you and say your child is complaining of a symptom and asking if you can help is scary.”

Looking ahead

In addition to resuming levy collections, Woodland schools have another change on the horizon: The district announced Asha Riley, the district’s assistant superintendent, would be the next superintendent following Green’s decision to retire at the end of this school year.

“We have grown a great deal during my tenure in terms of how we function and how kids are performing,” Green said. “One of the driving factors in Asha’s selection was continuing to maintain that momentum and return some that’s been lost due to the pandemic and the levy failure.”

After helping right the ship next year, Riley said one of her biggest goals is continuing to work on how the district can promote post-secondary options that resonate with its kids.

“We’ve been pretty aggressively working toward all students being career- and life-ready,” Riley said. “We had some significant increases in students accessing college credits at Woodland High School. Those kinds of initiatives, I believe, are preparing our kids to know that graduation is a launching point to their future.”

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