Passing grades for Astoria, Warrenton school bonds

The Warrenton-Hammond School District floated a $38.5 million bond to buy a master campus and build a new middle school to relieve overcrowding at Warrenton Grade School.

A $70 million school improvement bond in Astoria and a $38.5 million school relocation bond in Warrenton won voter endorsements on Tuesday night.

The Astoria School District’s bond will finance a five-year school improvement plan focused on school security, modernizing learning areas and improving building systems.

David Oser, an Astoria school board member and part of the political action committee Yes for Astoria Kids, said the election results are a victory for the entire community. The bond passed with 62.5 percent of the vote.

“My whole professional life … I’ve been in community economic development,” Oser said. “You are not going to have a strong, healthy community without strong, healthy schools. It’s a victory for the community. It’s a victory even for the people who voted against the bond. This will keep our community strong and vibrant.”

Warrenton-Hammond School District’s bond will purchase a master campus, build a new middle school and kick-start a multidecade process of relocating the entire school district out of the tsunami inundation zone. The bond passed with 59.3 percent of the vote.

Mark Jeffery, the schools superintendent in Warrenton, said the results are a testament to the work the district did in identifying its needs and presenting a solid plan to the community.

“I just want to thank the community for putting their trust in us and to let them know we’re not going to let them down,” Jeffery said.

The school districts receive $4 million each in matching grant money from the state with the passage of the bonds.

The centerpiece of Astoria’s $75 million school improvement plan is a $45 million modernization of Astoria Middle School, built in 1968 and largely untouched by previous bonds. The classroom wing at the middle school, filled with triangular, undersized classrooms that often lack natural light and proper ventilation, would be razed and replaced with a three-story tower housing an equal number of identical learning communities.

Astoria High School would receive nearly $20 million in security improvements and modernization, including the enclosure of the main campus. John Jacob Astor would receive $9 million, including a modernization of an old gym into a multipurpose cafeteria, kitchen and activity space. Every school would add secured vestibules through which visitors would be approved for entry onto campus.

District voters last approved $21.4 million worth of bonds in 2000 to build Lewis and Clark Elementary School, along with other improvements. The new bonds would begin after those expire, raising taxes for district voters to $2.83 per $1,000 of assessed property value — $1 over current levels.

Warrenton’s bond would buy a master campus on Dolphin Road from local company Warrenton Fiber and build a new middle school to relieve overcrowding at Warrenton Grade School. The school district hopes to float a 2022 bond to move the high school, and another in 2032 to move the elementary school.

The grade school, serving kindergarten through eighth grade, was meant to house 540 students but has grown to more than 800, said Tom Rogozinski, the school’s principal. The district has maxed out classroom and office space on the campus and installed six portable classrooms to house students.

Enrollment in Warrenton, the region’s primary location for new housing, has grown by 20 percent over the past decade. The district recently surpassed 1,000 students and is estimated to peak at 1,159 by the 2024-25 school year.

Warrenton’s bond is expected to raise property taxes by $2.03 per $1,000 of assessed value. The overall property tax burden in the school district is projected at $2.68 per $1,000 of assessed value through 2049 if the bond passes.

Yes for Astoria Kids raised more than $33,700 for its campaign, while Yes for Warrenton Hammond Kids raised nearly $10,500. The PACs primarily focused on signs, mailers, social media and door-to-door outreach.

View election results: View the latest results here.

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