WARRENTON — If you live in the Warrenton-Hammond School District, prepare for a phone call.
The school board on Wednesday signed off on gauging public opinion for a bond plan to move middle school grades and eventually the entire school district to higher ground.
A facilities planning committee last month recommended a series of three bond measures over the next 14 years to relocate the quickly growing school district out of the tsunami inundation zone. The effort would start with a $32.4 million bond measure in the November election to buy a new 70- to 80-acre master campus and build a middle school.
Superintendent Mark Jeffery said the committee looked at demographic data for the school district on how many voters there are, how often they vote and who’s more likely to back a bond. The district’s boundaries include around 4,500 voters spread over more than 2,800 households. Residents 60 years and older voted at by far the highest rates over the past four elections.
“Ours is a tough sell, I’ll tell you,” Jeffery said of the bond plan. “Not only looking at our demographics, but looking at what we’re really trying to do, it’s going to take us 18 years to finish what we’re wanting to start, and that’s not always an easy sell.”
The school district will reach out to the community through a phone poll to establish a baseline of support before bringing a recommendation to the board in April on whether to go after a bond measure, Jeffery said.
The district last went out for a bond measure in 2002, asking for $5.2 million to help repair crumbling infrastructure at Warrenton Grade School and Warrenton High School. The bond had a 21-year maturity and was estimated to cost $1.17 per $1,000 of assessed property value. The debt, now equal to 66 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value, is coming off the books in about five years.
Residents recently approved a bond increase of 9 cents to 33 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value to help sustain the Warrenton Community Library. But the facilities committee’s proposed bond measure for a new master campus purchase and middle school is estimated to cost $2.49 per $1,000 with a 25-year maturity.
The district’s enrollment has grown 20 percent over the past decade as the housing stock in Warrenton has increased, topping 1,000 students for the first time last school year. Jeffery has previously estimated enrollment will eventually peak at 1,159 students in the 2024-25 school year.
The district recently took out a $2 million full faith and credit bond — similar to a loan — to add classroom space over the next five years while figuring out a long-term solution. Several modular classrooms have been added outside the grade school to alleviate immediate overcrowding, and the district will need to add more over the next 18 years regardless of the bond decision, Jeffery said.
“If we don’t at least attempt this, it’s just going to mean a lot more modulars,” he said, adding that the district eventually won’t be able to keep up with projected enrollment.