School district asks voters to approve bond

$120 million measure will be decided on the Feb. 9 ballot

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State of the Schools: Superintendent Mike Nerland will talk about the bond during the annual State of the Schools address at the Camas-Washougal Chamber of Commerce luncheon Thursday, Jan. 21, at 11:30 a.m. at Camas Meadows Golf Club. He will be joined by Washougal Superintendent Mike Stromme, who will speak about his respective district.

To attend, email rachel@cwchamber.com or call 834-2472. The cost is $20 for members and $25 for non-members.

District information: The school district has put together an “Important Facts About the 2016 Bond Proposal” page at www.camas.wednet.edu/2016bond.

The Camas School District will ask voters to approve a $120 million bond measure on Feb. 9. Ballots from the Clark County Elections Division will be mailed out next Tuesday.

“The district is growing rapidly, and in order to maintain the excellence in education that our community expects, our schools need to keep pace with that growth,” said Mike Nerland, superintendent. “In the last 10 years we have seen our student population grow by over one-third and that trend is projected to continue.”

The measure will include the following projects:

o A 600-student magnet high school on the Camas High School campus.

  • A new Lacamas Heights Elementary School, north of Lacamas Lake, to accommodate 600 students.
  • Implementation of long-term parking solutions for CHS using the current Lacamas Heights site.
  • Acquisition of property for future school sites.
  • Improvements to building safety at all schools with controlled entry/access points, fob controls, video surveillance and upgraded exterior lighting and fencing.
  • Facility improvements such as ADA and mechanical system upgrades, roof improvements, technology infrastructure upgrades and carpet replacement.
  • Modernization of the Joyce Garver Theater/Garfield building, additions of concessions and bathrooms to the Doc Harris Stadium visitor side, and turf and light improvements at CHS fields.
  • If approved, starting in 2017, the bond measure would cost a taxpayer with a property valued at $300,000 approximately $15 more per month. The owner of a property worth $500,000 would pay an additional $25 per month.

    Renovating the Garfield building so that it can house the district’s preschool programs will open up space at Woodburn Elementary and Camas High School. It can also be used by arts and music programs both inside and outside of the district.

    “This bond is a component of the district’s long range phased approach to growth, which aims to protect and maintain our taxpayers’ current investment in school buildings and keep costs manageable for future generations,” Nerland said.

    Some have questioned the decision to build a small, magnet school on the current CHS campus instead of a second, comprehensive high school.

    Nerland noted that projections for student growth didn’t forecast the number necessary to support and staff two comparable high schools, and the lack of housing and infrastructure around potential sites.

    “In looking at the most recent high school built in east county and projecting the cost forward to a new comprehensive high school today, estimates could exceed $100 million, consuming a majority of our bond capacity,” he said.

    Troy Hull, a Camas resident, has been following the bond process for several months.

    “I agree that if we were to construct a new 2,000 student high school like we have now at CHS, then it would use up the bond funds,” he said. “However, it should be kept in mind that we don’t need that capacity now. A smaller high school building could be constructed now and then expanded in future bonds as the student population grows.”

    He noted that if the bond passes, then this option is off the table.

    “If the bond does not pass, then I hope the district seriously considers the option of a second, comprehensive high school elsewhere in Camas,” he said.

    Mark Klein is the chairman of Camas Citizens for Quality Schools, which is encouraging residents to vote “yes.”

    “The plan the school district has put forth allows it to better manage the growth while providing more choices for our students,” he said. “The educators in this district are bent on lifting all students. They are determined to assure that all of them are prepared for life after high school; whether it’s a university, a tech school, the military or becoming an entrepreneur or whatever.”

    He added that bond approval benefits the entire community.

    “There is exceptional synergy that runs through this community we live in,” he said. “We all support the schools, the downtown merchants, the parks and trails, and the overall quality of life. This is no accident and it is really hard to pull off when there isn’t community cooperation.”

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