Washougal school board OKs setting aside $1M for new school site

Facilities plan calls for land investment, but district says new school ‘not in immediate future’

The Washougal School District is preparing to purchase property for a new school, but isn’t expecting to build another educational facility until its student enrollment increases.

According to the district’s latest six-year capital facilities plan, approved by the Washougal School Board on May 24, the district will set aside $1 million for “a new school site.”

But that doesn’t necessarily mean that a new school is definitely coming to Washougal in the near future, according to Les Brown, the district’s director of communications and technology.

“In order to be ready for future growth in student enrollment that may come over the next 10 to 20 years as the city of Washougal grows, the district is setting aside resources to purchase a future school site,” Brown said. “The funding set aside in the capital facilities plan is to acquire another parcel of land to be used for a future school. (But) barring a significant, unexpected bump in enrollment, we currently do not have a foreseeable need to build another school in the immediate future.”

In April, the district re-evaluated enrollment forecasts and student generation rates based on recognized methodologies, including trends in land development, housing starts and residential construction.

“The district has experienced moderate residential growth at a significantly lower pace than during the mid-2000s,” the capital facilities plan states. “Given current enrollment, the core facilities are sufficient at all schools except Hathaway Elementary School, where the addition of three portable modular classrooms is beyond the capacity.”

The district is projecting its enrollment to steadily decrease during the next six school years, from 2,884 students in the 2022-23 school year to 2,591 in 2027-28, based on information from the Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction’s Report 1049.

Projections from the Johnson Economics Demographer Report, which the district uses as a baseline, show a similar decline, from 3,067 students in 2022-23 to 2,910 in 2027-28.

“We have several large cohorts of students, which center on the class of 2024, and as those groups graduate, we do predict a short-term decrease in enrollment,” Brown said. “We believe that this is a short-term decline, and that it will eventually be offset by growth in the community.”

The district is also trying to attract students in other ways.

“The district is working to make sure patrons know about the great educational programs we have as part of our campaign to market the success of our district,” Brown said. “We believe that our investments in our new dual language and transitional kindergarten programs, and the Washougal Learning Academy, will increase demand for our services.”

The plan also states that the district will set aside $1.2 million for the purchase of three portable classroom facilities, $1.4 million for the construction of a maintenance warehouse and $1 million for technology infrastructure upgrades.

The improvements will be paid for with school impact fees and other available public funds, according to the plan.

“Impact fees reflected within this plan do not include expenditures for new permanent facilities needed for growth (facilities needed for growth from the prior plan are carried forward),” the plan states. “Therefore, the district will not be collecting additional impact fees once this plan is adopted until the plan is updated and additional facilities are identified to serve growth.”