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Battle Ground Schools brace for Tuesday special election

Voter turnout is predicted to be around 40 percent

BATTLE GROUND — It’s crunch time for those hoping history does not repeat itself in Battle Ground. The school district fell 220 votes shy of what they needed to approve a $224.9 million building bond last February. The school board elected in March to go ahead and submit the same bond for the April special election.

Students at Pleasant Valley Primary carry their lunches from the cafeteria to their portable classrooms during lunch time. Photo courtesy Battle Ground Schools
Students at Pleasant Valley Primary carry their lunches from the cafeteria to their portable classrooms during lunch time. Photo courtesy Battle Ground Schools

“It’s hard, in two month’s time, for us to go out and say ‘hey, we’re really going to change a lot of people’s minds’,” Battle Ground Schools Superintendent Mark Ross told us then, “but if we can focus on the people that we know are positive, maybe we get more people voting.”

Should the bond fail again, the district would not be able to bring it back to voters until next year. At a work session for the school board earlier this month, Ross brought forward a contingency plan should the bond fail. It would likely involve re-drawing boundaries to shift some students from overcrowded schools like Glenwood/Laurin, Pleasant Valley Primary, and others to places like Daybreak and Tukes Valley where there is still some room.

Cathie Garber with the Clark County Elections Office says turnout as of Monday is 33.23 percent. “We do kind of an analysis before every election to figure out what we expect the turnout to be, and we’re expecting a 40 percent turnout, and it’s really in line to be at that.”

A sign urges drivers along SR-502 in Battle Ground to support the $224.9 million school building bond. Photo by Chris Brown
A sign urges drivers along SR-502 in Battle Ground to support the $224.9 million school building bond. Photo by Chris Brown

Total turnout for the February 13 special election was just over 36 percent in the Battle Ground school district, with 58.68 percent voting yes. The county doesn’t track turnout by precinct until after votes are counted, so it’s hard to predict whether the higher expected turnout for Tuesday’s race is good or bad news for the district.

“They’ve already met that minimum number of ballots returned to qualify for that piece of it,” says Garber,  “so they will need the super-majority of 60 percent yes votes to pass.”

Ross says that’s something people seem to forget when they look back at the loss in February – they had well over 58 percent voting in favor of the bond.

“Part of the problem in Battle Ground is that we are a large, spread out district,” Ross says, “We’re 285 square miles. So if you’re in an area that got a new building in the 2005 bond, and you’re sitting with a nicer, newer, safer building like in Amboy or Tukes (Valley), you may not see the need as much.”

Opponents of the bond, such as Battle Ground resident Dick Rylander, believe the school district has overstated their needs. While he has opposed this bond, Rylander says he does believe the district is in need of money to grow.

“Let me be really clear — I personally believe that they should replace Glenwood and Laurin,” he says. “I also (support) either a replacement of the Pleasant Valley Middle, or a remodel, whichever makes more economic sense.”

But he believes the district is going too far with plans for a new K-8 on 158th Avenue, covered play areas at some schools, and turf replacement at Battle Ground High School he believes should be coming out of the operations levy.

This chart details where money from the $229.4 million BGSD Building Bond would go. Photo courtesy Battle Ground Schools
This chart details where money from the $229.4 million BGSD Building Bond would go. Photo courtesy Battle Ground Schools

Ross admits that their bond request may come at a difficult time for many voters, with changes at the state level boosting property taxes this year – some by as much as 30 percent. Still, he’s hopeful that more of the people who live in areas this money would go to improve will fill in the box next to yes on their ballot and make sure it’s either in the mail by 5pm tomorrow, or in a ballot box by 8pm.

“We had some precincts that were over 70 percent yes votes, but only about 20 percent of the people voted,” he says, “Right around Prairie High School, which is one of our major growing areas, there are 1,500 eligible voters in that precinct, and only about 300 voted, and of those it was about 70 percent yes.”

If you live in the Battle Ground School District area, and you’ve yet to fill out your ballot, there’s still time. They need to either be in the mail postmarked by April 24, or else in a physical drop box location by 8pm on Tuesday.

“There are four election-day only manned sites in the Battle Ground school district area that they can go,” says Garber, “Names of those drop sites came in their packet, and they can also find them on our website.”

ClarkCountyToday.com will be covering the results of the Battle Ground School Building Bond. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to get the results shortly after 8pm. It’s worth noting that, due to the fact ballots can be mailed up to election day, the vote results could take several days to be final, especially if things are close.

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About The Author

Chris Brown

Chris Brown comes to Clark County Today with 15 years of local news experience as a reporter, editor, and anchor at KXL News Radio and KOIN-6 TV in Portland. In 2016, he won an Oregon Association of Broadcaster's award for Best Investigative Reporting for a series on America's Violent Youth. He has also been awarded by the Associated Press for Best Breaking News coverage as editor of Portland's Morning News following the 2015 school shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon. The second oldest of eight home-schooled children, Brown graduated from high school two years early. After several odd jobs, he earned an internship at KXL Radio, eventually working his way into a full-time job. Brown has lived in Clark County his entire life, and is very excited at the opportunity to now focus full-time on the significant stories happening in his own back yard, rather than across “the river.’’ After a few years in Vancouver, he recently moved back to Battle Ground with his wife and two young daughters. When he's not working to report what's happening in Clark County, Brown enjoys spending time with his family, playing music, taking pictures, or working in the yard. He also actually does enjoy long walks on the beach, and sunsets.

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