WSD to fix up schools, stadium with surplus

Excess bond money to help district improve outdoor play areas, storage facilities, parking lot, stadium bleachers

The Washougal School Board has passed a resolution allowing the district to use excess money from a $57 million bond approved by voters in 2015.

District leaders had hoped to use the $2 million surplus funds for additional capital improvements, but first needed to go through a two-step process to free the money.

School Board members completed the first step, holding a public hearing about the money, on Jan. 9.

The second step required the board members to approve the altered allocations, which they did at their Jan. 23 meeting.

Washougal school leaders will use the excess money to build a covered play areas at Gause and Hathaway elementary schools; construct a drive-through transportation area and make parking lot improvements at Gause; build a dry storage, athletic equipment building at Canyon Creek Middle School; and make upgrades, including ADA-accessible facilities, relocated concessions area, additional dry and secure equipment storage, new aluminum seating and new visitor side bleachers at Fishback Stadium.

Canyon Creek Principal Sandi Christensen said she’s happy the excess bond money will address her school’s storage space issues.

“We currently have an old storage shed that they store track equipment in, but it’s not dry and bugs and mildew get in it,” Christensen said, adding that the school has to stash wrestling mats either on the stage in the gym or in the corners of the cafeteria.

“Bottom line, there isn’t enough space for P.E. and athletic equipment,” Christensen said.

The 2015 $57 million capital bond funded construction of the new Jemtegaard Middle School, Columbia River Gorge Elementary and Excelsior High School buildings; as well as roof and HVAC improvements at Gause and Hathaway elementary schools, a new transportation facility for the district and safety upgrades at all Washougal schools.

Joe Steinbrenner, facilities director for the school district, said the first construction priority is a circulatory drop-off area with a drive-through lane at Gause.

The ideal design would have a drop-off lane and then a through-lane for parents to pull into after they have dropped their children off, Steinbrenner said. The parking lot will be widened, creating a loop and making it easier for drivers to exit the area.

The intention is to prevent people from dropping children off on the street — a problem that hasn’t been as big of an issue since the opening of Columbia River Gorge Elementary, which helped alleviate overcrowding at Gause, Steinbrenner said.

At Fishback Stadium, even though officials are still in the design phase, they know that the concessions stand will no longer be located under the stadium bleachers, Steinbrenner said.

“We don’t really have the room to enlarge the bathrooms to be ADA accessible and keep the concessions stand where it is,” he explained.

The bathrooms will be updated to have wheelchair accessible doors and a more appropriate number of stalls for the size of the stadium.

Having the stadium’s restrooms and concessions stand next to each other created a bottleneck during events, Steinbrenner said. Relocating the concessions stand off to the side should reduce the congestion.

Steinbrenner added that the items up for improvement were things that came up in 2014 long-range facility planning committee meetings, which included school district staff members, city officials, designers and community members.

The committee surveyed district properties and chose which improvements should be funded by the $57 million bond, Steinbrenner said. The newly approved improvements were simply next on the list.

The district will hire a design firm to start working on the new improvements, Steinbrenner said: “We hope to start construction on these items in the early summer.”

WSD Superintendent Dr. Michael Stromme said staff will present the completed designs, along with cost estimates and updates, to the School Board as soon as possible.