Superintendent update

Growth is a challenge and an opportunity
May 24, 2018


I have many fond memories of growing up in a small town. From the noon whistle at the paper mill that could be heard for miles around, to games of tag during the warm summer evenings and bike rides to the local swimming hole and burger joint.


Today, the once thriving paper mill where my father worked for 25 years, and had at one time over 2,000 employees, is struggling to stay running with just over 200 workers. The iconic neighborhood swimming pool where both I and my children learned to swim is being demolished for a more cost efficient “splash pad.” Some remnants of the downtown still exist, but the the old drugstore, JC Penney and sporting goods store have been replaced with clothing boutiques and brew pubs.


I’m not saying it’s all bad, business seems to be thriving and the “new” arrivals to town have contributed to a refreshed sense of community. I compare growth, and I suppose what you would classify as “progress,” to being much like a visit to the dentist. Nobody ever looks forward to it, and sometimes it hurts when it’s happening, but in the long run you come out better for having experienced it.


I know that in Battle Ground many people are feeling some of the same emotions. To someone who has lived here the majority of their life, it’s probably hard to think of change or growth as a good thing.  Battle Ground Public Schools sees growth as a challenge, but also as an opportunity. It’s an opportunity to welcome new students and staff with new perspectives and cultures that can help us to appreciate the diversity of the world we live in. We also see growth as a challenge; and how we respond to that challenge will eventually define us as a community.


As you may know, the schools in the southern end of the district, particularly Glenwood Heights Primary and Laurin Middle, are overcrowded. I want to update you on the status of these schools and provide information about how it might impact the district as we move forward and develop a solution. It is our plan to share updates as we work through this process. 


Status of schools 

The district's four southern schools—Glenwood Heights, Laurin, and Pleasant Valley Primary and Middle—are feeling the effects of significant growth. As of May, Glenwood (built for 484 students) has 808 students, while Laurin (built for 600) has 712. The Pleasant Valley campus (built for 993 students) currently has 1,118 students. A recent enrollment forecast conducted for the district by an economic development company projects Glenwood could increase by 380 to 445 students over the next 10 years, and Laurin by 380 to 440 students.


Solutions take time 

Battle Ground Public Schools is preparing to get public input on how it should address overcrowding in these schools. The Board of Directors voted at its May 14 meeting to create a committee that will look at the issues, consider public input, and then recommend solutions that will alleviate overcrowding and consider future growth. 


The board has asked that the committee's recommendations be brought forth next November so they can be implemented in the beginning of the 2019-2020 school year. We are aware that this means a solution is a school year away, but it is important that we take the time to not only address current overcrowding, but also to consider future growth. 


If the solution is to change boundaries, it is not as simple as redrawing a line on a map. These changes require logistical work with many considerations. Bus routes must be planned and configured, teachers must be reassigned, classrooms need to be prepared, and families must be notified about changes and oriented to their schools. 


If boundary adjustments are the viable solution, it could impact up to half of Battle Ground's schools, those that are overcrowded and those that have room for additional students: Glenwood Heights Primary, Laurin Middle, Pleasant Valley Primary and Middle, Maple Grove K-8, Tukes Valley Primary and Middle and Daybreak Primary and Middle. 


What we've done so far 

The board considered adjusting boundaries to address overcrowding two years ago in 2016 and sought public input. Families asked the board to employ options other than boundary adjustments to address growth in the short-term, including closing overcrowded schools to boundary exceptions, installing additional portables, and connecting the Glenwood Heights and Laurin campus to public sewer. The board is on the brink of exhausting all these options, including the sewer connection that will be completed this summer. 


As another solution, the board asked the community to approve a bond that would have replaced the overcrowded schools with larger facilities. Because the bond failed to pass with the required supermajority in February and April, the board is asking the public to help with work it began in March to seek alternative solutions that will address overcrowding and growth. 


Watch for invitation to participate 

We are planning for public input at several stages in the process. In the next few weeks, we will ask community members for their thoughts on how to address overcrowding in a Thoughtexchange survey. This and other enrollment information will be shared at the end of the summer with a committee of parents, staff, and community members. We are developing a process for the formation of this committee. In the fall, the public will be able to learn about and comment on the committee's recommendations at board work sessions. Please watch for the Thoughtexchange invitation in the next few weeks. We hope you will share your thoughts on these important issues impacting our school district. 


I appreciate the opportunity to share my thoughts with our community. We wish you a safe and enjoyable summer and look forward to serving the students and parents of the Battle Ground School District in the fall of 2018.


Sincerely,


Mark Ross, Superintendent

Battle Ground Public Schools

ross.mark@battlegroundps.org



Read Superintendent Ross' past columns:


May 2018: Growth is a challenge and an opportunity
April 2018: District working hard to earn your trust
March 2018: School security is top of mind
February 2018: Ready or not for kindergarten
January 2018: Great schools are the cornerstone of a great community

December 2017: Mother Nature determined to frustrate superintendent

November 2017: Why school districts ask to build new schools

October 2017Choosing the right path is challenging and rewarding

September 2017: Battle Ground by the Numbers, and BGPS serves all students

August 2017: What it means to be 'Battle Ground Strong'

July 2017: Introducing myself as the new BGPS Superintendent