Bend-La Pine school bonds sent to May ballot

Measure would fund two new schools, projects at others

La PINE, Ore. - The Bend-La Pine School Board on Tuesday night formally and unanimously sent a $96 million school construction and maintenance bond measure to the May ballot that wound fund two new schools and nearly 140 other upgrades around the district.

Last fall, the school board accepted the recommendation of the district's sites and Facilities planning committee to place the levy on the ballot.

Superintendent Ron Wilkinson said the measure would authorize Bend-La Pine Schools to sell $96 million in bonds to fund the construction of two new schools to address continued enrollment growth and 138 other safety, maintenance and classroom addition projects.

 "In Oregon, school construction bonds can only be used for capital expenses including new schools, new classrooms, land acquisition, roofs, etc. and cannot be used for personnel or operations," said Wilkinson. "These projects would support economic growth and go far to support the communities strong education system for now and for future generations."

Wilkinson added that the proposed bond would not raise the tax rate for schools above its current level,. District officials said that's because other bonds would be expiring around the same time. Another set of bonds recently were refinanced, saving residents an estimated $3.8 million in coming years.

School board Chairman Ron Gallinat called the final bond package the result of a thoughtful, thorough study of the more than 400 project requests that were reviewed by the 2010 and 2012 sites and facilities committees.

"What we are forwarding is a list of needs that we must complete in the next five years if we want to preserve our community's investment in our school facilities," board Co-Chairwoman Cheri Helt said. "As a business person, it just makes good sense to extend the life of existing buildings."

Helt added that 11 of the district's 17 elementary schools are near, at or over capacity, while three of the four Bend-area middle schools are facing the same growing pains.

"Our schools are getting very full," said Helt. "Portland State University's Center for Population Research is forecasting that another 3,000 students will join our schools in the next 10 years."

"Building these additional schools will help to ensure that we are providing the best environment for learning in, today and in the future," she added.

Gallinat noted that schools are not only the hub for learning in the Bend, La Pine and Sunriver communities, but also a place for community members to gather and host events.

"Last year alone, community groups spent nearly 110,000 hours hosting events at our schools and on our fields when classes were not in session," he said. "The economic impact of the regional and national events that took place in our community alone, at our schools, has to be in the millions."

About the Bond Package

Maintenance and Preservation of Existing Buildings:  Nearly half of the district's schools are over 30 years old, and projects are proposed to update these facilities. The bond funding would allow the district to replace leaking roofs and windows and upgrade heating, ventilation, electrical and plumbing systems. The bond would also allow the district to make energy-saving improvements to many of its schools and facilities.

Neighborhood Schools in High-Growth Areas:  The bond would allow the district to construct one elementary school and one middle school to meet current and anticipated future crowding caused by continuing enrollment growth.

Safety Improvements:  The bond would allow the district to make health and life safety upgrades including fire sprinklers, security systems, electrical wiring, intercoms and entrance redesign to provide improved visibility of visitor access. Security fencing would be added at several school sites.

The bond also would allow the district to add playground safety improvements at several elementary schools and safety improvements at high school physical education spaces including gyms, courts and fields.

Classroom Additions and Renovations:  Many of the district's classrooms that serve its applied arts programs were constructed 30 or more years ago. The bond would allow the community to add and renovate classrooms and support spaces at existing elementary and middle schools, as well as deliver modernization projects and increase instructional spaces for science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics at Bend Senior High School, Mountain View High School, Summit High School, La Pine High School and Three Rivers School.

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