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Ridgefield school bond failing – barely

Were it any other race, the Ridgefield School District’s latest school funding measure would have passed by a landslide.

But it wasn’t any other race. It was a school bond, and here in Washington, a 59.07 percent margin of support is close, but doesn’t cut it.

At latest returns, the $107 million school bond was failing just shy of the 60 percent supermajority necessary to pass a construction bond. That’s even closer than the district’s crack at a $77 million school bond a year ago, which failed with 58.12 percent support.

Had about 70 of those who voted against the bond changed their minds, the measure would have passed. Of the 7,511 ballots counted, 4,437 were cast in favor of the bond.

More results are expected Tuesday. As of Friday morning, the Clark County Elections Office had 99 challenged ballots in the Ridgefield School District, meaning either they were missing a signature or the signature on the envelope didn’t match the voter’s registration data.

With that in mind, Superintendent Nathan McCann wasn’t prepared to call it over. It’s unlikely, however, that there will be enough ballots in Ridgefield to change the results of the election.

But, McCann said, “the need doesn’t go away” with the likely failure of the bond.

“The next step is for the (school board) to gather and make some decisions, perhaps fairly quickly, and continue to move forward,” he said.

Demographers project an additional 1,760 students will enter the district by 2023-2024. That’s more than 50 percent growth in the suburban school district, whose enrollment was 3,358 students in January, according to the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction.

McCann said the school board could consider running the bond, or some version of it, again this spring.

Under the Washington State Constitution, a school district cannot run a school bond more than twice in any calendar year. That means if the bond fails again, the district could be faced with choices about how to prepare for the coming growth. The district projects it could build dozens of portable classrooms, convert theaters or libraries into classroom space, or operate school on a split schedule.

McCann was heartened by what he described as “an authentic and genuine” sense of support from the community, driven largely by parents in the school district.

“Our parents have never been more engaged or more enthusiastic out there talking about this,” he said.

School funding measures in Vancouver Public Schools and the Washougal School District passed by comfortable margins. Vancouver’s three-year supplemental levy was passing Friday with 60.5 percent support. Levies need only 50 percent to pass.

Washougal’s three-year operations levy was passing with 54.17 percent support, while the technology levy was passing with 57.25 percent support.

Woodland Public Schools’ levy, meanwhile, was failing, with 55.32 percent of residents voting against the measure.

Katie Gillespie: 360-735-4517; katie.gillespie@columbian.com; twitter.com/newsladykatie


Source: https://www.columbian.com

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