Ridgefield eyes $40.5 million elementary school bond


Rick Bannan/rick@thereflector.com

Ridgefield School District voters are expected to make a decision on a roughly $40.5 million construction bond that would see a K-6 elementary school built in the district’s northeast portion, among other improvement projects.

The district’s primary ballot measure in August is something of a second attempt to secure funding for capital projects this year, albeit scaled back from a narrowly beaten February vote. Chief among the projects included in the August vote is a 75,000-square-foot elementary school, set to be built on land off Northwest 279th Street, east of the 65th Avenue station in the northwest of Clark County Fire and Rescue. Although originally planned as a K-4 facility, the elementary would also house the fifth and sixth grade overflow until a middle school was built down the line.

The bond would also pay for improvements in existing elementary schools.

In addition to the $40,465,000 that would be directly funded by the bond, projects included in the ballot measure would also receive $12.3 million in state funding. Bond-funded work would be complemented by future land acquisition and design of a new mid-level campus and design of a high school expansion, all paid for from fees billed to district developers intended to help fund schools.

The financial impact for homeowners in the district is expected to be 32 cents per $1,000 of assessed value, or about $149 per year for a $466,000 home, according to district information.

The August vote is on a significantly lower bond than February’s, which ultimately failed to secure the required supermajority of 60% of voters by just 62 votes. Originally slated for a vote in April, the district board decided to postpone the vote given the then relatively new COVID-19 outbreak and subsequent response limiting activity in Washington state.

Although COVID-19 restrictions are still in place, RSD board chairman Joe Vance said the months since the original vote date in April have allowed residents to get used to the changes made to alleviate the disease, which with the state vote. – the mail-in system meant that the council and district felt they could run an election with minimal interference.

Spreading the word, RSD Superintendent Nathan McCann said the district relied on Thoughtexchange software to get community feedback. He said the software was “courtesy of COVID” as it was initially used to get feedback on district distance learning activities, now used to hear district residents’ concerns about the link.

Vance said even before restrictions on gatherings due to COVID-19, district information events had better virtual attendance than in-person.

“In that sense, it really didn’t change anything,” Vance remarked.

Vance acknowledged that COVID-19 has put a strain on everyone, though he noted overcrowding issues in schools remain an issue for the district.

“The board is not oblivious, and certainly not deaf to the historic moment in which we find ourselves,” Vance said, adding that the “urgent need” for a new building did not disappear when the pandemic of COVID-19 hit.

“When you look at the need for an elementary school, no one can argue (against) that need,” Vance remarked.

As for what that population growth might be as the school was built, McCann pointed to building permit activity in the city, which he said was at a faster rate than in 2019. This year, 245 new residence permits had already been issued. in the city through June, above the 151 permits issued in the same period last year,

McCann said a successful August bond would allow the district to bid on the construction project in the fall, which he said was a more competitive time for projects, resulting in savings of 5-6% on the essential costs of the project compared to a spring offer. .

The new building would be able to alleviate overcrowding at the district’s two existing elementary schools – Union Ridge and South Ridge – as well as accommodate some of the district’s population that currently attends Sunset Ridge Middle School in

“This elementary school has the ability to mitigate and sustain three buildings,” McCann said.

The new elementary school would be completed for students to attend the new building in January 2022, which McCann said could prove logistically difficult to move students in the middle of the school year. District information indicated that RSD would be able to save money by not having to use laptops for another semester, and students who would otherwise be in such facilities would be in permanent classrooms sooner. that if the district waited until next February to execute a bond.

Although the financial impacts on voters in the district are exacerbated by COVID-19, Vance noted that the bond would be returned over a 20-year period.

“When we pass an obligation, we recognize that during this period of the obligation, there will always be (financial) ups and downs,” Vance said. With pressing needs and the potential for savings by executing the ballot measure sooner rather than later, it made sense to continue the ballot next month.

“Given the fiduciary duty we have to the students and families of our district, that’s why we’re moving forward,” Vance said.


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