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Schools plan timeline for facility improvements

509-J officials also discuss the state's budget woes at during school board meeting
General Editor
   Architect Steve Olson of Dull, Olson and Weekes presented a timeline for the three school construction projects approved by voters in last November's $15.8 million bond election, at a workshop just prior to Monday night's School District 509-J Board meeting.
   The project will begin in June with remodeling work at Metolius and Madras elementaries, and be completed by August. Metolius School will be getting a new gym floor and modern Special Education classroom, while Madras Elementary will expand its library, enclose the kindergarten wing and also have the gym floor replaced.
   Planning and design work for major expansion and refurbishing at Madras High School will be done by March of 2003, when construction is set to begin. It is estimated the work will be completed by August of 2004.
   The last phase will be the expansion and converting of Buff Annex back into an elementary school for 350 to 400 students. Construction is set to begin in June of 2004, with an estimated completion date of January 2005.
   During the board meeting, Supt. Phil Riley gave a financial report, saying, "We're currently projecting we will end the year in the black, and would have $367,000 if we ended the year tonight."
   Discussion followed on Governor Kitzhaber's suggested budget cuts as Oregon struggles to balance its budget. The preliminary figures suggested cutting state school funding by $600 per student. With approximately 3,900 students, that would mean a loss next year of $2.2 million for the 509-J School District, Riley said.
   "If we have to cut $2 million we would be dealing with some major, major cuts. I'm hoping it will end up being half that," Riley said, noting the state budget is still being negotiated.
   Riley said he expects Gov. Kitzhaber to come out this week with a better plan that would show more favoritism towards education.
   The annual State Report Cards, which rate all Oregon schools, will be coming out soon, and Riley gave board members a preview of what to expect for the 509-J District.
   "Test scores are up, dropout rates are down, our schools are operating safely, graduation numbers are up, and the numbers are up for (students obtaining) Certificates of Initial Mastery (CIMs)," he reported.
   "But there are also huge challenges," Riley said, mentioning 509-Js situation with finances for operations, agreement with the Tribes to build a new Warm Springs School, and the fact that many teachers are planning to retire next year.
   In other business, Phil Fine was appointed and Doug Lieuallen reappointed to the district budget committee; resignations were accepted from varsity softball coach Billy Jo White, and behavioral specialist Teresa Williams; and the hiring of William Kelso as forestry club advisor was approved.