Opinion: What the no portables strategy means

Ridgefield resident Heidi Pozzo says there’s a view that one-third of Ridgefield students are currently taught in portables, similar to this one which is shown in the La Center School District. File photo
Ridgefield resident Heidi Pozzo says there’s a view that one-third of Ridgefield students are currently taught in portables, similar to this one which is shown in the La Center School District. File photo

In her latest assessment of the Ridgefield School District’s bond proposal in the April 23 special election, Heidi Pozzo examines the district’s no portables strategy

Heidi Pozzo 
for Clark County Today 

The leading argument for building new schools in the Ridgefield School District is the presence of portables. No child should ever be taught in a modular classroom. The strategy is a Field of Dreams strategy. If you build it, they will come. But what if they don’t? 

Heidi Pozzo
Heidi Pozzo

There’s a view that one-third of Ridgefield students are currently taught in portables. There are currently 3,939 students enrolled in the brick and mortar K-12 schools. Early learning is excluded because they have their own space at the Ridgefield Administrative and Civic Center (RACC) and online learning is online and at Wisdom Ridge. 

One third of the 3,939 students enrolled is 1,313. Using the view that one third of students are in modular classrooms, that would mean 1,313 students in modular classrooms and 2,626 students are in permanent classrooms.  

Ridgefield School District lists current permanent capacity as 3,374. Somehow 748 seats have vaporized if 1,313 students are actually in modular classrooms.  

Does that mean that the capacity figures being provided by Ridgefield School District are inaccurate? Are we being asked to spend $190 million largely to build schools that don’t achieve capacity goals? 

What expectations should we have about when to build the next school? When the first person or class is held in a modular classroom? Should we build a school for 600 when less than 25 students are in a modular classroom?  

Should Ridgefield School District not plan for the time when enrollment crosses the capacity threshold?  

Using that logic, should taxpayers be prepared to spend $70 million (in the case of a K-4) or $120 million (in the case of a 5-8) to build a new school when the first class is ready to enter a modular classroom? And all the costs associated with operating a new school without adequate new revenue from the state? And what happens if enrollment starts declining shortly after the school is built? 

Capacity stairsteps up. Enrollment is a continuum. That’s what makes capacity planning a challenge. There’s some time that requires operating over capacity. And when capacity is added, there is typically relative certainty that the amount of capacity being added still makes sense.  

If you read the voters pamphlet, you would know my position is that a new K-4 school makes sense right now. Just not the one being proposed. 

Right now, it’s too early to build a new 5-8 school. Being 96 students over capacity does not warrant building a 1,000-student new school that will take 36 years to reach capacity across the system.  

A no portable strategy would tell you that a new school should have been built in 2019, prior to reaching capacity, because a modular classroom was present.  

There is a time when things will be a bit cramped and a time when costs are high because a school is not fully occupied. It’s a matter of managing expectations on both sides. Otherwise, you’re asking people to make a big investment in capital and operations. An approach that is not seen in business nor in people’s personal lives.   

Heidi Pozzo has been a Ridgefield resident for 16 years. She is a concerned citizen who would like students to get a good education and thinks we can do it in a more cost-effective way.

1 Comments

  1. Fox

    Only 50% met the math standards in Ridgefield. Classrooms are underutilized if 1/3 are in modular classrooms. They are actually over capacity by 18%, and should only be using 7 of the 19 portables, if you use washington state classroom sizes.

    Reply

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