Ridgefield parents divided on upcoming school bond vote


As the April 23 special election approaches, Ridgefield School District parents have differing opinions on whether they support two bond propositions that, if passed, will provide funding for new schools.

If successful, Proposition 10 would fund the construction of a 75,000-square-foot kindergarten through fourth grade elementary school and a 23,000-square-foot expansion to Ridgefield High School. The expansion includes adding 10 general education classrooms and additional space for technical education programs.

Proposition 11 includes the construction of a 125,000-square-foot middle school for fifth through eighth grades as well as a new wrestling room with locker rooms at Ridgefield High School. Should it pass, construction for Proposition 10 projects is anticipated to wrap by fall 2025. Proposition 11 projects would be completed by fall 2026. Residents must approve Proposition 10 for Proposition 11 to pass, should the second proposition gather the needed votes.

Schennele Gore, a mother of three, plans to vote yes for both propositions. She said that the portables installed are inadequate and do not meet the needs of students. Gore said two of her children attending South Ridge Elementary complain about the facilities lacking heat.

“They do their best with providing us facilities, but it’s not the same as being in a secure building that has proper AC and heat and all of the other amenities,” Gore said. “While I appreciate the things that the district has done to mitigate the issue, at some point, we need to expand.”

Rachelle Simmons, a mother of four children attending Ridgefield schools, said additional space for students is overdue. Simmons, who said she will be voting yes on both propositions, believes that building additional schools, reducing the number of people on one campus at any given, will mitigate traffic and overcrowding, especially during pickup time.

“At school events, the parking lot is packed, and it’s difficult to get out,” she explained.

Simmons said her children also experience long lunch lines and barely have time to enjoy their meals.

A parent of a student attending Ridgefield High School, who chose not to disclose her identity, said she supported Proposition 10 but opposed Proposition 11. She informed The Reflector that, although she has reservations about the district’s leadership in recent years, she feels compelled to vote in favor of the former proposition because of concerns about overcrowding at the elementary level.

“To be honest, I just don’t feel like money has been allocated appropriately over the years,” she said. “I don’t want the kids to suffer, but I still feel there needs to be a little bit of a bite for [the district] to step back and look more about how to allocate it better.”

She said her biggest complaint of the Proposition 11 projects is inclusion of the additional wrestling room and lockers listed on Proposition 11.

“Hardly anyone does anything in the locker room, so I’m not sure why we’re all worried about the locker rooms,” she said. “…The (wrestling team) is getting by right now. So is there something else that’s more important that we shouldn’t be taking care of right now?”

Emily Tyron, a mother of two children attending View Ridge Middle School and Sunset Ridge Intermediate School, was undecided on how she planned to vote. Tyron said that while her eldest son complains about having to walk to and from portables, she doesn’t feel that is unreasonable.

“He doesn’t like going out there, but that’s more like, ‘it’s annoying to go out in the rain and walk across the thing and be in there.’ But when it comes to the kids, it’s just what’s expected,” she said.

Tyron said that the district and supporters of the bonds have pushed for a yes vote based on the current need for space, but all the arguments for voting yes have come from district employees and volunteers. Tyron said she would like to hear somebody who is not associated with the district share their reasons for supporting the bond measures.

If both propositions pass, property taxes would increase to $3.89 per $1,000 in assessed property value, a $1.30 increase for district residents. Additional collection of property taxes would begin in 2025, according to the district’s website. The district would receive $11.7 million in state matching grants to fund construction, should the bonds be approved in April.

Interim Superintendent Chris Griffith told The Reflector in an email that for the district to meet students’ needs, it is critical both bonds pass. He said the district is already well-over capacity in permanent classroom space. He said the district has studied neighboring school district buildings with consultants when developing ideas for Ridgefield’s proposed facilities to ensure they will accommodate the growing student population.

“New schools being built would alleviate overcrowding in our schools and would help ensure more equitable learning opportunities for all Ridgefield students,” Griffith said. “It would also help alleviate traffic congestion around our K-8 schools during morning drop-offs and afternoon pickups.”

The district has not successfully passed a bond in seven years. Griffith told The Reflector that district expectations regarding the vote are tempered. A required supermajority of 60 percent plus one vote makes passing bonds difficult, Griffith said.

“This remarkably high bar for passage has posed a tremendous challenge for school districts all across the state who are trying to construct new schools. We appreciate how engaged and passionate the Ridgefield community is when it comes to our schools,” he said.

More than 1,330 students have enrolled in the district since the last school bond passed in 2017, according to the school district website.