Bend-La Pine School District is asking voters to approve a $268.3 million bond measure. Voters in the district are currently paying $1.46 per $1,000 of taxable value in property taxes. With approval the rate is projected to increase by 44 cents, to $1.90.
When existing bonds are retired the rate is slated to go back down to $1.46 in six years.
In making the decision to put the bond on the ballot the school board relied heavily on the recommendations of the Sites and Facilities committees, made up of community members and staff. In all, 800 major maintenance and preservation, classroom addition, safety, technology, energy conservation and new school construction projects were reviewed and 159 were identified as critical needs that are included in the May 2017 bond request.
Data provided by Portland State University Population Research Center notes that Bend-La Pine Schools would need seven new schools (four elementary, one middle and two high schools) by 2035 to successfully manage current and future student enrollment.
Two of these schools, a high school and an elementary school, were identified as immediate
needs and included in this measure. Bend-La Pine Schools currently owns property for a future high school in southeast Bend. The district intends to build a new high school there and an elementary school in another high growth area.
On average, student enrollment has increased by more than 300 new students each year for more than three decades with many district facilities near or already over capacity. Between 2000 and 2016, district enrollment grew by more than 5,000 students and is expected to grow by more than 3,000 students in the next ten years.
From fall of 2016 to fall of 2020, high school student enrollment is expected to increase by 600 students. From fall of 2016 to fall of 2024, 1,200 new students are expected to be enrolled in the high schools.
The bond will help make security upgrades and replacing old, inefficient plumbing, electrical, heating and cooling equipment with increased energy-efficient systems that will save tens of thousands of dollars in annual operating costs – making more money available for the classroom.
Additional instructional spaces and renovation of classrooms and support spaces at several of the oldest elementary (Amity Creek at Thompson 1949, Juniper 1965, R.E. Jewell 1974 and Bear Creek 1963) and middle schools (Pilot Butte 1968), as well as modernization of instructional spaces at other schools would support instruction in science, technology, engineering, arts and physical education.
Bend Senior High School, built in the 1950s to accommodate 1,500 students, currently serves 1,763 students. Classrooms have been added over the years, but common areas like hallways, bathrooms and the cafeteria are undersized and are not meant to serve this school’s growing student population.
Marshall High School, originally built as an elementary school in the 1940s, serves 168 students. The proposed construction of a gym and two classrooms would increase capacity by 50 percent to 300 students.
Mountain View High School, built in the 1970s to accommodate 1,500 students, serves 1,453 students and is expected to be over capacity by the fall of 2017 and to be significantly over capacity in the years to come.
Summit High School, built in 2001 to accommodate 1,500 students, currently serves 1,526. It is expected to be significantly over capacity in the years to come.
La Pine High School, built in the late 1970s, currently serves 413 students. It was expanded in the early 2000s to accommodate 550 students.
Oregon’s school funding model is somewhat unique. The legislature allocates dollars each year for teaching and learning, but construction of new schools and the modernization and preservation of existing schools is the responsibility of the local community. Funds for capital construction can be raised through elections and the support of community members for local tax levies.
By law, bond money cannot be used for salaries or other daily operating expenses. These dollars can only be used for capital construction. As enrollment grows, which it is forecasted to do, additional operational funding will be provided by the State, which uses a funding formula based upon student enrollment numbers.
It’s easy to see why it’s crucial to fund facilities for education with the increase in enrollment and our expanding community. The importance of educating young people can’t be over emphasized. They are the future — an education provides a solid foundation, gives them and the community opportunity to create a sustainable workforce.
A flourishing school district is an important factor for businesses relocating to Central Oregon. Our economy is expected to continue to grow and prosper and with it will come more demand for quality education system. Our region is a well-known center for startups and entrepreneurs. With this interest comes an enormous demand for highly skilled employees who demand a top notch school system with curriculums designed for students to succeed in the technology-based world.
Without a quality, free, public education system open to all in safe and maintained facilities, many children would never have a chance to make their lives better by developing knowledge and skills. This alone is a significant reason to support this necessary bond measure.
The bond is scheduled for the May 16, 2017 general election ballot. Be sure to return your mail in ballot, which also includes several school district candidates. We thank them for their willingness to serve and help guide the future of our schools.
For more information see www.yesfornewschools.com