Camas School District’s process for managing growth was transparent, inclusive

By Alicia Brazington and Phil Bourquin, Guest columnists

The Camas School Board is considering a capital program bond initiative which would be put before voters in the Feb. 9, 2016, special election. The lion’s share of the roughly $120 million proposal would address the significant overcrowding at Camas High School and site a new Lacamas Heights elementary located where the new growth will be on the north side of Lacamas Lake.

As co-chairs of the Facilities Advisory of Citizens, Teachers, Staff and Students (FACTSS) committee, we’d like to take a moment to highlight the very public and inclusive process the school district has facilitated that brought us to this proposed bond.

In the spring of 2014, district leadership initiated the first phase of its 2020 Strategic Planning Process. Through a series of interviews and conversations with first the Camas School Board and then business and community leaders, a set of core values were identified. Priorities around teaching and learning were established through a series of varied, innovative interactions to gather student voice through a film festival, staff voice through a think tank process and on-site conversations, and parent voice through listening posts. Each of these interactions were designed to push our own thinking about student learning, how we can prioritize what’s important, and deliver aligned outcomes.

More than 1,700 interactions in this year-long process helped the district frame the next phase of long-term planning: growth management. The FACTSS committee, comprised of more than 50 members, convened last spring to develop a plan to meet the needs of our growing population. Armed with data related to the state of our current facilities, current enrollment and enrollment growth projections, the nine sub-committees studied, contemplated and sometimes passionately argued points to develop a comprehensive facilities recommendation. We presented our progress to the board midway through our efforts and delivered a final bond proposal at the end of June.

Public Response

Along the way, our meeting agendas and minutes were posted to the FACTSS web page on the District website along with the data utilized and the subcommittees’ presentations. In the fall, the district conducted a professional phone survey and hosted board listening posts to gather feedback on the bond proposal. Based on this feedback, the original proposal has seen adjustments, but it remains largely intact.

The bond program proposal is posted on the district’s website, www.camas.wednet.edu/2016bond, along with updated cost estimates and the presentation made at the Nov. 9 Board workshop. The board is slated to adopt a resolution that will bring the bond program to voters in February.

Heard at the workshop and at listening posts is the question of why we’re not building a second, comprehensive high school now. The answer is pretty straightforward: 1) We don’t yet own a piece of property large enough for a full-size high school; 2) The district doesn’t have the bonding capacity to build a comprehensive high school and address the other needs of the district; and 3) We don’t yet have enough students to have two high schools that are comparable in size, scope and offerings. No one knows for sure what education will look like five, 10 years from now. However, as the district plans for future growth, the property and bonding capacity will be in place if/when a second comprehensive high school is needed.

Alicia Brazington and Phil Bourquin are co-chairs of the FACTSS committee.

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