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Big projects planned if Riverside school bond passes

The Riverside School District in north Spokane County has ambitious plans to renovate several of its facilities. It’s asking voters this month to allow it to issue up to $73 million in bonds to take on a large slate of projects.

“We’re really similar to Deer Park in that we’re experiencing the most growth of any of the rural school districts in Spokane County,” said Superintendent Ken Russell.

Russell says the district has had a steady increase in enrollment for the past four years and expects that to continue for at least the next decade. He says the district to carried out a two-year process that included research, planning and community outreach.

“Everything from town hall meetings to information sessions,” Russell said. “We did focus groups. We did what are called executive-style phone surveys. We did thought exchanges, which is using technology and artificial intelligence to gather a bunch of feedback.”

That feedback led the district to develop plans for four major facilities projects. They include expanding and upgrading Chattaroy Elementary School, renovating Riverside High School and facelifts for Riverside Elementary and Riverside Middle School. All of that work would be done within the next six years.

Russell says they are projects that help the district address its growth.

“There’s hunger in Riverside to get better. There’s hunger in Riverside to continue to make progress and build a good internal and external reputation and serve the kids well, but also build the community and be respectful of the taxpayers and what’s going on with the economy,” he said.

Besides the bond issue, the district is also asking voters to replace an expiring operations levy to cover the costs of programs not paid for by the state.

“We can do college prep and career and trade prep at the same time, but it takes that additional funding,” Russell said.

He says Riverside offers 130 hours of college credits, which he considers impressive for a smaller school district. But it also has vocational courses for students who don’t plan to attend college.

“We still offer welding. We offer construction. We offer FFA and ag science. Believe it or not, we just started a tractor-driving program at the middle school because this is the kind of community we have,” he said.

Russell says Riverside is conducting its bond-and-levy campaign with an open, community-minded approach.

“We don’t want to get stuck in the national narrative about division, so we’re trying to be a model district that actually likes each other and cares about each other,” he said. “What I tell people is, even on a vote that can be a little bit of a challenge with different thoughts about it, let’s not let it divide our community. We can still honor each other. Let’s at least talk to each other.”

The levy will take a simple majority of votes to be approved. The bond issue will require 60% approval. You can read more at the Riverside website or at the Spokane County online voters’ pamphlet.

Doug Nadvornick has spent most of his 30+-year radio career at Spokane Public Radio and filled a variety of positions. He is currently the program director and news director. Through the years, he has also been the local Morning Edition and All Things Considered host (not at the same time). He served as the Inland Northwest correspondent for the Northwest News Network, based in Coeur d’Alene. He created the original program grid for KSFC. He has also served for several years as a board member for Public Media Journalists Association. During his years away from SPR, he worked at The Pacific Northwest Inlander, Washington State University in Spokane and KXLY Radio.