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Camas School District tackles future building needs

4 schools could be at capacity by 2030; $100M middle school on 6-year list of possible capital facilities needs

It has been six years since Camas School District voters passed a $120 million capital facilities bond to improve capacity and safety throughout the school district, built Discovery High School and Lacamas Lake Elementary School and purchased property to accommodate future schools.

Now, Camas school officials are taking a deeper look at student capacity needs over the next six years.

“We’re looking at the enrollment trends and facility needs going into the future,” Camas School District’s director of business services and operations, Jasen McEathron, told Camas School Board members during the Board’s April 18 workshop. “Plans have changed, right? Enrollment has slowed down. We completed all the projects that we said we’d deliver (in the 2016 bond) and then had an enrollment decline. So we’re sitting in a pretty good spot capacity-wise, but there are some pain points.”

School board members reviewed a draft of the district’s 2022-28 Capital Facilities Plan during the April 18 workshop and are expected to discuss the school district’s six-year building and capacity needs during their regular meeting on May 23.

The district’s 2016 bond may have built enough capacity for existing and new students through 2028, according to the executive summary of the draft six-year Capital Facilities Plan.

“Thanks to the 2016 bond, which provided an increase in educational facility capacity of 192 students at the elementary level, 360 students in middle school and 600 students in high school, the projected number of students by 2028 can be accommodated in the (school district’s) existing educational facilities and portable classrooms,” according to the draft plan presented to school board members earlier this month.

CSD enrollment growth slows, but still projected to add 688 students by 2028

The school district is required under the Washington State Growth Management Act to adopt a capital facilities plan every six years to identify school facilities that are required to meet the district’s expected student growth during that time period.

When the district adopted its last capital facilities plan, student growth in Camas was outpacing most other Clark County school districts.

“Between 2014 and 2019, enrollment growth within the District grew an average 3.1 percent per year, compared to the countywide rate of 2 percent,” the draft plan states.

Student enrollment has since slowed — and actually declined over the past two years during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic when school districts throughout the state went into remote and hybrid remote-in person learning models. The school district’s most recent enrollment projections show enrollment growing over the next six years, but at a much slower rate than the numbers seen between 2014 and 2019.

A new 6-year enrollment forecast prepared by Eric Hovee of E.D. Hovee & Company, LLC, on Feb. 6, 2020 and updated in December 2021, predicts the Camas School District will add nearly 600 students in grades K-12 over the next six years, increasing from its current 7,103 students to 7,734 students in 2028.

“Future K-12 enrollment is projected to increase by 1.3 percent per year, or 688 students over the next seven years,” the draft plan states.

Between now and 2028, the district expects to increase its elementary student population by 12 percent (354 students), increase its middle school student population by 9 percent (156 students) and increase its high school student population by 5 percent (121 students).

The draft capital facilities plan also notes that other factors — including collective bargaining agreements with staff, government mandates and community expectations regarding class sizes and the ability of the district to offer programs that fall outside the state’s definition of “basic education,” such as special education, physical education, art and music classes — also influence the school district’s future facilities needs.

In Camas, district officials have set boundaries around maximum class sizes. For elementary students, class sizes are targeted to not exceed 24 students per class. For Camas’ middle and high school classes, the targets are no more than 30 and 31 students per class, respectively.

The draft 2022-28 Camas School District Capital Facilities Plan includes an inventory of the district’s current facilities:

  • Six elementary schools built between 1982 (Dorothy Fox) and 2018 (Lacamas Lake) offer 402,994 square feet worth of space and have capacity to accommodate 3,504 students and 146 teaching stations.
  • Three middle schools built between 1937 (Liberty, with multiple updates and additions made between 1952 and 2006) and 2016 (Odyssey, updated from its original 1996 construction) offer 287,320 square feet worth of space and can accommodate 2,050 students and 82 teaching stations.
  • Three high schools built between 2003 (Camas High) and 2018 (Discovery High) offer 354,121 square feet worth of space and can fit 2,641 students and 103 teaching stations.
  • 32 portable classrooms, including 14 at the elementary level, six at Camas’ middle schools and 12 at the high school level, have the capacity to accommodate a total of 796 students in grades K-12.
  • The district also owns seven support facilities: a transportation center; a grounds shop/bus maintenance and warehouse; Doc Harris Stadium; The Heights Learning Center; Jack, Will & Rob Family Resource Center, Transition House and the district’s headquarters at the JD Zellerbach Administration Center.
  • The district’s land inventory includes 57.6 acres at 2815 Northwest Leadbetter Dr.; 79.9 acres at the northeast corner of Northeast 28th Street and Northeast 232nd Avenue, and 19.6 acres at the northwest intersection of Northwest Pacific Rim Boulevard and Northwest Parker Street.

Some school buildings expected to hit capacity before 2030

Although the school district will likely be able to accommodate all of its student growth using existing buildings and portable classrooms, McEathron said the district might experience some growing pains at the middle school level.

“Odyssey is at capacity with a wait list,” McEathron said of the district’s newest middle school. “At Liberty, feeder schools — Lacamas Lake and Woodburn — will drive that capacity up.”

McEathron added that the district could potentially add space to Liberty Middle School and Woodburn Elementary School by finding space for additional portable classrooms and could “utilize space more efficiently” at the project-based learning Odyssey Middle School to improve that school’s ability to accommodate more students and teachers.

“If we continue to grow, the middle schools will be a pinch point for us,” McEathron warned school board members earlier this month.

The draft capital facilities plan predicts when the district’s school buildings will hit maximum capacity. Many — including Camas and Hayes Freedom high schools, Skyridge Middle School and Grass Valley, Lacamas Lake and Prune Hill elementary schools — are not expected to hit maximum capacity until at least 2040, but others are nearing their capacity limits:

  • Woodburn Elementary School, which is currently 82 percent full, will likely hit its maximum capacity in 2026;
  • Odyssey Middle School, which is 85 percent full, is considered to be at capacity in 2022;
  • Liberty Middle School, which is 77 percent full, will hit capacity in 2028; and
  • Discovery High School, which can accommodate a total of 600 students in grades 9-12, is expected to hit capacity in 2030.

Facilities needs list includes $210M worth of projects

To accommodate future growth, the draft capital facilities needs list includes six projects estimated to cost $210 million. Combined, the projects would add capacity for an additional 2,158 students. The projects included in the draft capital facilities plan are not funded projects but, rather, a list of possible projects the school district may wish to pursue to meet future student growth. The projects, with their estimated costs, include:

  • A new portable classroom to accommodate 48 students at Woodburn Elementary ($500,000);
  • An addition to Odyssey Middle School to accommodate 100 students ($15 million);
  • Property acquisition for future school facilities ($7 million);
  • A new portable at Liberty Middle School to accommodate 60 students ($500,000);
  • Construction of a new middle school to accommodate 850 students ($100 million); and
  • Improvements to the Leadbetter Campus for educational purposes that would accommodate 500 students ($87 million).

The capital facilities needs list contributes to the district’s calculations of impact fees that ensure newcomers to the district help pay for increased facilities needs.

Due to slowing enrollment growth, Camas School District’s new impact fees may be lower than in previous years.

“Impact fees have to be used for growth and to accommodate new students,” McEathron said. “They can’t be used for maintenance. They would have to be used to increase capacity or build portables.”

McEathron told school board members on April 18, that the school district will likely need to build a new middle school sometime in the near future. Putting a portable classroom at Liberty Middle School could push the need for a new middle school out a few years, but McEathron said the issue will probably become more apparent by 2028.

“Going out to 2028, when we’ll have two or three middle schools potentially full … and if our enrollment comes in (as forecasted) or higher, we could reasonably expect to be going out for a bond (to build a new middle school) in six years,” McEathron said during the April 18 workshop.

The school board members will discuss the draft capital facilities plan again at their May meeting. To read the draft plan presented to the Board on April 18, visit tinyurl.com/2p99p2bn.