Camas School District eyes Sharp Labs building

Purchase could be finalized this month

The Sharp Laboratories of America property could be home to the Camas School District’s middle and high school project-based learning programs.

District officials sent out an e-mail to parents Friday, detailing the potential $12.5 million purchase of a 55,000 square-foot building. The acquisition would also include the surrounding 31 acres. Funding would come from bond proceeds and other money generated from impact fees. The $120 million bond was approved by voters in February.

“Property acquisition and plans to address middle school overcrowding were included as part of the scope of the bond,” the e-mail stated. “We’re asking the entire community if they think we should build the project based learning high school on the Sharp campus instead of the Camas High School campus (as planned).”

The building and adjacent property are located at 5750 N.W. Pacific Rim Blvd. It has been on the market since mid-2013, when employees moved next door, to the Sharp Microelectroincs of the Americas building, 5700 N.W. Pacific Rim Blvd.

“The District is in the final stages of closing the $12.5 million transaction,” said Mike Nerland, superintendent. “I can tell you that if all goes well, it will be an incredible investment for our community and a great opportunity for our middle school students and staff.”

Originally, the plan was to locate the project-based high school on the CHS campus, so that students would have the opportunity to share staff, ease transportation costs, and allow students to easily participate in “crossover” courses such as Advanced Placement, electives and P.E.

Jeff Snell, deputy superintendent, noted that the design committee made the recommendation to build the new, project based learning high school in November 2015.

“At the time of the recommendation, there weren’t other alternative properties to consider that were ready for construction and could provide relief of overcrowding by 2018,” he said.

Snell doesn’t anticipate a cost savings if the project-based high school is built on the Sharp campus.

“We will work with the existing budget for the new PBL high school allocated by the bond to build the school at either site,” he said.

The possibility of using the Sharp campus is a question that came up during the purchase discussions.

“As the design team for the new project based learning high school met with architects this spring to plan out the new school, the idea of placing the school at the Sharp campus instead of the Camas High School was raised,” Snell said. “The more we investigated the option, the more it seemed like the location for the new project based learning high school was something we should consider.”

A project-based pilot middle school program is planned at the Sharp building in the fall of 2016.

The program will begin with a team of two teachers each for sixth and seventh grades. The following year, the district plans to add two eighth-grade teachers and possibly additional sixth- and seventh-grade teams.

Within five years, the program is intended to be a self-contained, autonomous school with approximately 400 students. The new project-based learning high school is set to open in the fall of 2018. There will not be a qualification process for the pilot program.

If the high school program is also housed on there, potential advantages include having both programs at the same site, proximity to industry for partnerships, traffic reduction at the CHS campus and more opportunity for outdoor learning. Potential disadvantages include changing the location from what was originally planned, limited access to CHS and the possible difficulty of recruiting students to the new campus.

The community will have the opportunity to give input at two listening posts scheduled for 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. Thursday at the Zellerbach Administration Center board room, 841 N.E. 22nd Ave. The information gathered will be shared with the School Board at a 4 p.m. workshop on Monday, June 13, in the board room. If the board members decide there is enough support for the idea, then there will be a public hearing on Monday, June 27.

“Community trust is very important to us in Camas,” Snell said. “It provides the foundation for what makes our community such a great place to live. The new opportunity the Sharp campus presents us is something our school board felt we needed to share with our community and solicit feedback…We’re excited to work through this process with the community.”