MADRAS, Ore. - Last spring, Jefferson County voters made a tough decision -- to increase taxes on themselves.
"In tough economic times, they stepped up to the plate and said, 'Yes, our students are important to us,'" said the school district's HR director, Darryl Smith,.
After 21 years in Central Oregon schools, Smith has seen it all. But he believes the bond measure allocating more than $26 million to Jefferson County schools is a game-changer.
"Every building is touched by this bond," Smith said Tuesday.
At Madras High, a brand new 18,000-square-foot performing arts center will be built next to the football field, expected to be ready for students by September 2014.
"It does open a whole new world, both with drama technology, everything for the students," Smith said.
But not all the upgrades are so glamorous.
"It's not very exciting when you talk about insulation, or upgrades to the heating system," Smith said. "But those are things that are actually going to save the district money over time."
Other improvements revolve around the safety of students, meaning more security cameras, a high-tech lock system on the doors, where teachers use access cards instead of keys to get in, and upgrades to the fire alarm system.
"Being able to put this bond measure toward the upgrades of our facilities and not put operations money toward it -- that's exciting," Superintendent Rick Molitor said.
Another safety concern addressed by the bond is the playground surface at the primary school.
Some of the youngest students in the district play the asphalt littered with raised bumps ready to trip and cause cuts. Smith says the outdated equipment will also be taken care of.
"The newest piece of equipment at Madras primary is 14 years old and the oldest is over 40," Smith said.
As the saying goes, in Madras it's out with the old and in with the new. The bond money will also build a brand new kindergarten-through-eighth grade school on the Warm Springs Reservation.