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A revenue-neutral bond? It's possible

The number of students enrolled in Woodburn schools has increased by almost 30 percent in the last 10 years — from 4,438 to 5,718 students expected this fall. At an average of 128 new students per year, that’s equal to five new, full classrooms each year or more than 50 classes in the same time period.

All our schools have exceeded their maximum capacity levels, and no new buildings have been added. We demand educational excellence from our students and need to provide them with instructional space to help them succeed.

In 2011, the Woodburn School District appointed 20 people to the Instructional Space Task Force (ISTF). This group of community members, parents, staff and school board members spent several months considering options to relieve overcrowding in our public schools. The ISTF provided a final report to the school board that made three recommendations.

The first was to lease space in other privately-owned buildings for school district administrative offices. A second option was to convert two unused workshops at the high school. Both options, while helpful, would not get us where we needed to be capacity-wise.

The final option was for a multi-track, year round school schedule. The way MTYR works is that only two-thirds of students are using the school facilities at one time while the remaining third would be on vacation. This could increase our capacity by 48 to 63 classrooms.

The concept of multi-track, year round schooling was controversial for our community and staff. As a result, the decision was made to table the report until other options could be considered.

In 2011, passing a bond to build new schools was not part of the ISTF’s final report. Now, however, the feeling is more optimistic as the economy improves and the idea of a school bond is back on the table.

What makes the idea of a bond even more compelling now is that it would, in effect, be revenue neutral for our taxpayers. That means if voters approved a bond, the amount of taxes you pay to the school district would not change.

This is possible because an existing bond passed by voters in 1995 is scheduled to retire. Continuing this revenue stream would provide the instructional space we need, as well as renovations to existing buildings and technology improvements. This could be the way to accomplish what we need for our students without increasing taxes for our community.

We anticipate this bond will meet our needs for the next 20 years, just like the old one. Our next step will be to reconvene the ISTF and develop a list of recommendations for additional instructional space and renovations needed at each school. From there, we will assign costs associated with each project and schedule community meetings to receive public input.

In the meantime, I would really like to hear your thoughts as we start the discussion about funding additional instructional space, renovations and technology improvements. We need an open conversation about this issue because it is an important one that will drive many decisions we make at the district level.

Please take a moment to send me your comments to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . You also may send a letter to Superintendent Chuck Ransom, Woodburn School District, 965 N. Boones Ferry Road, Woodburn, OR 97071.

On behalf of all of us at the school district, thank you in advance for your time and input.