On a drive through Brush Prairie, west of 503 in the southern part of the Battle Ground Public Schools district, you can see it: the hammers swinging, the workers building and the trucks moving. Construction is happening now on more than 1,500 single family homes and 600 multi-family units on what was once vacant agricultural land. After years of recession-stifled growth, the Battle Ground school district is on the verge of a housing boom, with an estimated 1,000 new students coming to the district in the next several years.
Battle Ground Public Schools' leaders want to meet the needs of additional students and maintain the district's high standards of education, low classroom sizes, ubiquitous technology implementation and safety protocols—all within a budget. That’s why the Battle Ground Public Schools’ Board of Directors has convened a community-driven committee called the Facilities Improvement Team (FIT). The group is charged with developing a long-range facilities management plan that can be phased in over the next 20 years and is designed to be a working document under regular review.
“The facility planning process is part of a larger district effort to plan for the future of education in our community,” said Mark Hottowe, BGPS superintendent. “It starts with values. Our leadership team, in partnership with board members, staff and community partners, is working on identifying clear values, including the role of education, how we support our staff, the safety and security of our buildings, and meeting the demands of our population growth. All these must work in concert with each other and need to be aligned if we want to be successful.”
Over the past two months, FIT members have met at the Lewisville Campus to get up to speed and understand the current condition of school facilities. They’ve seen presentations from BGPS Facilities Director Kevin Jolma on the state of BGPS facilities; Bill Coon, the SW Washington Regional Coordinator for OSPI School Facilities and Operations, on the state’s School Construction Assistance Program; and BGPS Assistant Superintendent of Finance and Operations MaryBeth Lynn on the district’s budget, enrollment projections and debt capacity; in addition to an overview presentation on the Clark County Growth Management plan.
With this foundation of knowledge the team can focus on specific areas of facility planning such as specific program and school needs, local factors such as infrastructure changes in surrounding municipalities, and the status of current school sites.
The district is contracting with LSW Architects in Vancouver to conduct a Study and Survey, which is required by the Superintendent of Public Instruction prior to consideration of state funding assistance for school facility projects, whether new construction or modernization of existing structures. The survey should be completed by the end of April and will provide an inventory and analysis of existing facilities and demographic and other data that is necessary for FIT members to identify priorities and start creating a plan based on the district’s educational and operational value statements.
The FIT recommendations will provide a foundation for decision making and a roadmap for future leaders. “Facility planning is driven by the educational plan,” said FIT facilitator Dave Halme. “To be truly effective, we must align these efforts and provide the best recommendation for the growth and development of the district.” Halme, who led the facilities department at Clark College for 20 years and worked as a consultant for local school districts in facility management planning, is volunteering his time alongside the FIT members.
“We are excited for the educational and facilities processes to merge and create a clear pathway for the district to follow,” Hottowe said. “I am confident this work will give our community and district leadership the information we need to move forward together.”
FIT comprises 20 members: two members from each director district, one member from each of four district employee associations, a community facilitator and a district resource team that includes five members of the district leadership team.
FIT meetings are open to the public, and a calendar of meeting dates is on the district website at www.battlegroundps.org/fit. Recent presentations, contact information, meeting minutes and agendas also are available on the website. Community feedback and questions are encouraged, and FIT members can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.