RIDGEFIELD — On Feb. 14, 2017, officials in the Ridgefield School District will ask voters to approve a $78 million school bond that will help build a campus with two new schools, expand the high school, add security enhancements to South Ridge and Union Ridge elementary schools, repurpose View Ridge Middle School and help build the Ridgefield Outdoor Recreation Complex.
During a regular meeting of the Ridgefield School Board of Directors on Tue., Nov. 8, board members voted 5-0 to put the bond on the special election ballot in February.
“The average K-12 student spends about 15,000 hours in schools,” said Ridgefield Superintendent Nathan McCann. “Obviously, the teachers are the most important thing, but after that the buildings are important. The only building that a student is expected to spend more time in than their schools will be their homes.”
“We’ve done a lot of research and worked with the (county) Department of Health around proper lighting, air quality, etc. and how those things affect students,” McCann continued. “We’ve started to communicate that to staff, faculty and the community. The same way you want a nice house and you want it to be comfortable, this is what we want for students’ work space.”
McCann said that the total cost of the projects the district would like to do is $98.5 million. If the $77.965 million bond passes, the district will receive approximately $15.5 million in state matching funds. Also, by partnering with the city of Ridgefield to construct the Ridgefield Outdoor Recreation Complex, the district will save $5.035 million.
“The city will take on construction of some of the fields as a part of the Outdoor Recreation Complex,” McCann said. “And on that same property, we will build a new fifth-sixth grade school and seventh-eighth grade school. That will be a school complex, two schools built under one roof.”
The first phase of the school district’s four-phase plan, a $47 million bond approved by voters in 2012, was the largest bond amount in the district’s history at the time, McCann said. This upcoming bond is obviously much bigger, and McCann said it is needed, especially considering the district has experienced an enrollment increase of more than 13 percent since the end of the last school year.
“We did an enrollment projection two winters ago, and we plan to continue to do one every other year if we see this growth trend continue,” McCann said. “The current projection is that we’ll have 7,200 kids by 2035. I can tell you right now that we are currently exceeding the rate of the 7,200 projection. And when you look at the land we have available, we have so much housing scheduled to go in, we have apartments going in, we have Vancouver Clinic coming, we have Clark College at Boschma Farms coming, these will all continue to bring growth.”
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If the bond passes, the projected increase in the tax rate (per $1,000 assessed value) is 77 cents. This would be an increase from $1.41 to $2.18 in 2018.
“We are cautiously optimistic (that the bond will pass),” McCann said. “As the population in Ridgefield continues to grow, more and more people are moving to Ridgefield because of the reputation of the schools, and we have one of the lowest tax rates in the area that will continue to stay lower.”
For more information on the Ridgefield School District’s proposed bond, visit the district’s website.