Population growth, smaller class sizes increase pressure on district
Clark County is growing. Census data indicates that between 2000 and 2015, the county’s population grew more than 30 percent. The influx of new residents has raised the number of students in schools. Vancouver Public Schools’ enrollment has grown more than 7 percent in the last 15 years (see first graph below).
Voter approval of a 2001 bond measure provided funding for construction projects that expanded existing schools and built new schools to accommodate population growth. However, many classrooms continued to be housed in portables, located outside the main school buildings, due to the lack of available space and construction funding (see second graph below).
Recent legislation and a voter-approved initiative calling for smaller class sizes also have squeezed school spaces. VPS estimates that 100 additional elementary classrooms are needed to meet the latest class-size requirements. In the short term, the district is taking the following actions:
Securing a $43 million grant from the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction that will be used to build and expand kindergarten through third-grade classrooms. Grant funds cannot be used to purchase or lease portable classrooms. The grant is contingent on the district matching a portion of the amount, which VPS plans to do by applying reserve funds, typically used for emergencies. If the district’s school board and local voters were to approve a bond measure, anticipated to appear on the February 2017 special election ballot, the reserve funds would be restored.
Planning for the aforementioned bond measure that could provide capital funds for class-size reductions, as well as an extensive project list that includes renovations or rebuilding of schools that are overcrowded, old and/or no longer meet today’s teaching and learning needs.