RIDGEFIELD — While nobody in Ridgefield has perfected time travel, some Ridgefield High School students will be thrown for a loop when classes start this week.
“We left the 1960s and came into 2019 with these new classrooms,” Superintendent Nathan McCann said, showing off one of the eight new science labs at the high school.
Ridgefield High School, which was completed in the last 1960s, is home to one of the newest buildings on campus: a two-story, 45,000-square-foot building with 20 classrooms and a new, larger library.
Funding for the roughly $27 million project comes from the $78 million bond voters approved in 2017. To make room for the new building, the district demolished two buildings, totaling a combined 21,000 square feet, according to Scott Rose, project manager for the bond projects.
One of those buildings was the main office. The other was the old building with science rooms, which was knocked down after the most recent school year ended so no students were displaced during construction. The main office was relocated to a portable building during construction.
The new building also has general classrooms, a classroom for photography classes and expanded space for the district’s Life Skills program, with kitchen appliances, a washer and dryer and a private restroom large enough to fit a wheelchair and a few paraprofessionals, in case multiple staffers need to assist a student.
Rose said the classrooms all have flexibility built in, with tables on wheels that can be easily rearranged depending on need and class size. McCann said flexibility is something the district prizes when building for current population and projected growth. He said the district anticipates adding 1,760 new students in the next five years. The district finished the most recent school year with a little more than 3,150 students.
“It’s like taking a school district the size of Hockinson or La Center and dropping it in Ridgefield,” McCann said.
That’s also part of the reason the district tries to take on large building projects in phases. The new high school building is the last major project funded with the 2017 bond money, which also helped construct the new 5-8 campus, repurpose the old View Ridge Middle School into the new Ridgefield Administrative and Civic Center and make upgrades at all other buildings.
The district still has plans to continue expanding the high school, so eventually it is one connected building, instead of smaller separate ones.
“It’s phased to be economically sensitive,” McCann said. “You don’t want to build 200,000 square feet when you only need half of that in case that projected growth doesn’t come. You don’t want to ask your current residents to pre-pay for people who aren’t here.”
McCann said it could take another two bond cycles to fully build out the high school so everything is connected. The district ran a bond vote in February, but it failed to reach the 60 percent plus one vote needed to certify a bond. That $77 million bond would’ve gone toward a new K-4 elementary school on a site the district purchased in 2018, more high school expansion and covered play areas at all elementary schools.
The plan is to run the bond again in February 2020. The school board has until November to vote to put the bond on that ballot.