A little more than three years ago, the Reynolds School District Board made note of a concerning pattern of enrollment increases. Approximately 150 to 200 additional students were moving into the district each year and the district had few extra classrooms. Through help from a Portland State University analysis, the school board learned of the building permits granted, available land in the district and projected enrollment growth. The Reynolds School District is projected to grow by 1 to 1.5 percent each year for the next five years.
The school board assembled a community Enrollment and Facilities Task Force to review the past enrollment, the forecasts and the conditions of individual schools. The task force spent six months reviewing facilities and walked through every school in the district and nearly every classroom. The task force recommended that the school board consider a capital bond measure to deal with the enrollment growth, student safety and outdated and aging facilities.
The task force made specific and detailed recommendations to ensure all schools had equitable facilities. It conducted a careful review school by school, compared square feet and analyzed the sufficiency of space allocations by service. The task force highlighted the need to increase high school space, assure major overhauls to three schools more than 75 years old and add classrooms district wide at elementary, middle and high school levels.
Upon hearing the specific recommendations from the task force, the school board set standards to address these issues equitably across our 16 school sites. The task force reconvened and was asked to prioritize specific buildings, specific repairs and specific approaches. The cost of the projects the task force chose as top priorities totaled $167 million.
The school board then sought community input and learned the public preferred certain approaches and certain focuses to improving our school facilities.
The community wanted:
• More classroom space at the high school.
• Increased building safety.
• Equitable facilities and programs at all schools.
• Replacement of Wilkes Elementary School, built in 1913.
• The purchase of land needed for classroom space but no investment in more land for the future at this time.
The school board reduced the total project cost to $115 million based on community input and preferences and approved placing Bond Measure 26-88 on the Nov. 7 general election ballot.
Now three years after the start of this process, the Reynolds School District has run out of classroom space and the children continue to arrive.
Terry Kneisler is the Reynolds School District superintendent.