By DAN SPATZ
The Dalles Chronicle
An addition to Hood River Valley High School could serve as short-term classroom space for Columbia Gorge Community College under an idea discussed by the college and school district boards Wednesday night.
The expansion — which is only a concept at this point — is one of at least four possibilities being considered by college directors, who continue to search for a Hood River location following the 2001 Hood River annexation into the college district.
Directors briefly maintained an option to purchase private property on Country Club Road, but cancelled this when negotiations with the owner failed to resolve various differences between the two parties.
As matters now stand, the college is exploring three specific concepts:
A 5,000-square-foot addition to Hood River Valley High School. Hood River school directors received their first formal introduction to this idea Wednesday night. The idea is being developed by Mike Schend, who serves on the college board as a Hood River representative and is also director of community education for the Hood River County School District. Under one scenario, the addition could be funded through capital construction monies available from an earlier bond measure approved by Hood River voters, with limited assistance from the college; the addition would facilitate access to community college classes by Hood River Valley High School students, while also serving the broader population. After two to four years’ use by the college, it could later serve as classroom expansion space for the high school, according to Schend.
“This is a temporary benefit for the college, but a permanent one for the school district,” said Schend, adding that a new wing would ultimately help the district meet rising enrollment needs at the high school without having to ask voters for construction bond money again.
Hood River school board members took no action on the concept, which is expected to return for future discussion at a later meeting. Port of Hood River would also be asked to contribute federal funds toward the project, according to Schend.
Use of vacant space in the Rite Aid building in Cascade Commons. This is part of a larger retail space, a portion of which continues to be used by Rite Aid. The space became vacant several years ago after Rite Aid acquired Payless Drug Store and reduced its active retail floor space, according to information presented during Wednesday’s college board meeting at Hood River Middle School. Rite Aid would sublease its unused space to the college, and could make tenant improvements, reported college director Dave Fenwick, who represents Hood River on the college board.
Port of Hood River space. This could feature either portable buildings or, perhaps, the port’s Expo Center. Port commissioner Sherry Bohn attended Wednesday’s college board meeting and advised of the port’s continuing interest in partnering with the college to establish classroom facilities on the waterfront. No formal action has been taken by the port at this time.
A fourth option is to issue a “request for proposal” to determine whether other potential sites may be available in Hood River.
The college essentially faces two issues, explained business manager Bob Cole — first, to establish short-term space to augment or replace facilities now in use at Coe Elementary and Hood River Valley High School, and second, to identify a permanent college center in Hood River.
The facility issue suffered a setback in last year’s legislative session, when lawmakers were unable to fulfill their commitment of financial assistance for the Hood River college district annexation. (Nor is the state’s budget picture getting any better: Thursday’s statewide revenue forecast suggested a $640 million shortfall on top of the $2.1 billion shortfall which had already accumulated.)
A long-term college site in Hood River would be identified through a matrix review coordinated by a Portland consulting firm, DLR Group, which also is developing a long-range development strategy for The Dalles campus.
College directors need to identify a firm direction this summer — probably at their July board meeting — if the college is to proceed with a November 2003 bond election.
In the meantime, college directors on Wednesday directed staff to proceed with financial analysis of all the current options.