BATTLE GROUND – The Battle Ground Public Schools’ Facilities Improvement Team (FIT) has recommended that the Battle Ground School Board of Directors consider a bond measure to update aging schools and construct new ones to accommodate continuously growing enrollment.
After months of data and information review, the group summarized its conclusions at a school board work session last week and presented its findings to directors.
“The bond was something the board and I had considered a probable option as we moved forward based on what we know about the increased housing that’s happening, especially in the south end of the district,” said Mark Hottowe, Battle Ground Public Schools superintendent. “However, it was critical to not make that decision on the board level, we wanted the community to have a part in this conversation so it would be transparent and wouldn’t be coming from ‘the top.’”
In order to better involve the community in the district’s plans for growth, the Facilities Improvement Team is made up primarily of citizens in the community. During the selection process, Hottowe said they tried to make sure they had members from all of the different school board members’ precincts in order to best represent the district. The committee is completely independent from the school board and the district office and Hottowe said their recommendations are based on an immense amount of information they’ve gathered over the course of their 14-plus meetings.
According to a news release from the school district, FIT facilitator Dave Halme told the board it should consider pursuing a bond measure as early as February 2016.
“The school district has done a great job maintaining its facilities,” Halme said in the news release. “But some buildings are reaching the end of their life.”
The Facilities Improvement Team is comprised of community and staff volunteers working in collaboration with the district to create a long-term facilities management plan. The plan will provide recommendations to the Board of Directors for current and new facilities that meet the academic and learning needs of students and keep pace with community growth.
“The school board should consider a bond because we have too little space to accommodate 21st century learning, and this issue will intensify in the next couple of years as our population grows,” said FIT member Curtis Miller. “Our kids matter to us and they need to know it. One significant way we can show them is for the community to come together on their behalf.”
Hottowe said he really enjoys watching the group of community members work together, as they all challenge each other, have spirited debates and show so much emotion when it comes to students in the community.
“What I love about this group, you have 20 people in a room and they are all involved, they all want to participate,” Hottowe said. “It’s always a positive conversation, these people really care, they really care about this stuff. It’s so uplifting as we see what the future holds, it’s been a wonderful experience to observe from the side.”
In its presentation, the Facilities Improvement Team identified three main facility needs: property acquisition for new schools, capital repairs to existing facilities, and modifications to buildings and the installation of portables to accommodate short-term growth. The team also requested that the school board commission the work of gathering the final pieces of information that will help FIT members develop the long-range facilities plan.
FIT members have met 14 times since February to gather information and assess the school district’s schools and facilities. They examined current facility planning efforts, studied new housing projections and enrollment forecasts and examined a Study and Survey conducted by a professional architectural firm.
Conservative estimates suggest that the district will grow by nearly 7,000 new homes in the next 20 years. In May, there were 1,092 single-family homes under construction, with more than 3,000 houses and 326 apartments planned for construction within the next three years.
As evidence of the growth, May was the largest month ever for the impact fees that Clark County and the city of Battle Ground pass on to Battle Ground Public Schools from the construction of new homes, according to the school district’s news release. The district received $830,000 from approximately 162 new permits. The money collected from impact fees are designed to accommodate enrollment growth through the purchase of new land or the installation of modular classrooms.
According to Halme, most of the growth is taking place in the southern part of the district, where the majority of schools, including Glenwood Heights Primary, Laurin Middle School, Pleasant Valley Middle School and Prairie High School, received a rating of “poor” condition on the architectural study and survey due to the age of existing buildings and some major systems being at end-of-life. These same buildings qualify for state construction assistance that could potentially cover up to half the cost of modernization and construction. FIT members will review additional information, including cost-benefit analyses of various options for each of these buildings as the team develops the district’s facilities plan.
Besides building improvements, FIT members also learned how 21st century learning and state initiatives are changing facilities needs and classrooms and necessitating technology implementation.
Going forward, FIT members still have much to do. The group will work through the summer and fall to categorize and prioritize facilities needs and seek community input, review cost-benefit analyses and develop a long-range plan.
“FIT members have reviewed an incredible amount of data and given a significant amount of time to putting the district on a solid foundation, and for that I thank them,” Hottowe said. “This work, combined with community input we collect in the fall, is setting our district on a successful course to providing a 21st century education.”
Battle Ground Public Schools will use Thoughtexchange, the tool it used to conduct its spring community engagement campaign, to solicit community input about facilities priorities. The FIT members will use this information and cost-analysis data to create a schedule and budget that will allow the implementation of a facilities plan, including FIT’s recommendation that the board consider a 2016 bond measure.
To keep up with what’s going on with the Facilities Improvement Team, visit the FIT website at http://www.battlegroundps.org/fit. For additional information or to ask questions, contact Sean Chavez, communications manager for the district, at email@example.com.