Bend-La Pine Schools get busy with 'school work'

District prepares for 140 improvements, two new schools

Bend La-Pine Schools set for new projects, new schools

BEND, Ore. - The view from Buckingham Elementary Principal Skip Offenhauser's office is a bit troubling.

"As it stands right now, people walk in through our front entrance, and they are not seen by our office," Offenhauser said Thursday.

But thanks to a $96 million bond that voters approved last year, the school's tunnel-like front entrance is getting a safety makeover this summer.

"We'll be able to see anyone coming into the school," Offenhauser said.  "And we'll have several sets of doors that people will have to go through, and we'll even be able to lock those doors at a push of the button."

He said students, parents and visitors will have to go through the main office in order to access the rest of the school.

The $1.7 million allotted to Buckingham Elementary also will pay for other improvements, including ADA upgrades and a new gym floor.

And gyms around the district could use some TLC.

Mountain View High School's upstairs gym floor is vintage -- the original flooring from when the school opened in the '70s.

"We believe if we take care of our schools, and maintain them, we're really extending the life of those facilities and stretching the tax dollars," said Bend-La Pine  Schools spokeswoman Julianne Repman.

In all, the district will do about 140 school improvement projects over the next few years.

The district will spend more than $60 million on projects this year alone.

Other upgrades at Mountain View include replacing leaky windows, laying a new track and revamping the culinary classroom.

"There will be a lot more potential for our kitchens,"said junior Tye Leahy. "We're (getting) commercial kitchens now, and we're not just going to cook, but have discussions next door."

Making improvements to existing schools are just one step. The district also has to deal with overcrowded classrooms.

Construction will begin this summer on two new schools. Prep work is already underway at the elementary site between Brosterhous and Reed Market roads.

The schools are expected to open in the fall of 2015. but higher building prices could delay portions of the projects. They may open with only half as much space as planned, delaying the rest.

"It's really a matter of going out and figuring out what the bid climate is, and then building a school that really stretches those dollars," Repman said.

Repman said the schools would be built in a manner in which additional wings could be added in the future.

The timing couldn't be more crucial: Repman said more than half of the district's elementary schools are at capacity or overcrowded.

The school district is hosting a ground-breaking party at each building site coming up in May.

Buckingham's remodel is slated for this summer and will be finished by fall.

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