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Growth potential

In my last column, I described some growth issues in the community that will have an impact on our District in the next three to five years. To punctuate those previous comments, I just become aware of another 2900+ acre parcel on the East side of Powell Butte that was just sold to Kevin Spencer. I have met Kevin. He lives in the Bend area and has been a generous donator to communities and schools in his given trade as a brick mason. He also has been doing some investing and developing of real estate in the past several years. While there are not specific plans for this property at the moment, it is in an area that destination resorts are allowable. Measure #37 changes in land use planning could also have some impacts on the properties ultimate use.
   The real estate broker, Peter Storton, who sold the property is not from Prineville but is located in Central Oregon. I have also known Peter for some time and he told me that the property market is very hot in Prineville. Of course that is not news to any of the local brokers. Peter continued in saying that he has more clients that are explicitly looking for property in Crook County. In one case, the person wants to buy as many properties as can be found meeting a certain criteria.
   Planning is continuing on the Brooks Resources Project and they, as well as Eagle Crest, will begin construction early in the next construction season or as soon as planning processes are completed. All of this is just to punctuate the issues that our schools will be facing in the next 3-5 years due to lack of space. This will surely mean working carefully with the community to look for specific partnerships and solutions that will address the need in the most cost effective way possible.
   On a related note, the High Desert Education Service District (ESD), which serves Crook County and Deschutes County schools, is also in need of additional space for their programs. The ESD currently shares their main office in Redmond with the Redmond School District and are expanding their lease partnership with the Bend-La Pine School District in the Bend-La Pine school district office. Two of the High Desert ESD board members are from Crook County: Mark Severson and Jerry Crafton. Jerry and Mark are long time community members and spoke with our Board at their last regular meeting in November about the possibility of sharing office space with the ESD in Prineville.
   The High Desert ESD is in a purchase process to acquire the empty building behind the current State of Oregon Department of Human Resources office. This building has sat vacant for several years and the seller seemed motivated to assist the ESD in selling to them at a significantly reduced cost. The Crook County School Board will consider this proposal in light of the fact that our current office space does not meet ADA accessibility standards at any level and the staff with central office functions are currently scattered over two buildings due to lack of space.
   The current district office building has been in use since before 1973 when the student population the district served was about 2900 students. Prior to this the office was in the Crook County Courthouse basement. This was before the laws were passed regarding special education for students with disabilities and the American disabilities act requiring spaces in public facilities to be accessible to all. We currently have about 3200 students on a growing trend and the nature of the students we serve and the services we are required to provide are dramatically different than they were in 1972.
   The Board will carefully consider the ESD offer in light of current needs, the budgeted targeted funds for this area, and the coordination with future facility needs. A shorter-term lease of 3-5 years may offer flexibility in meeting current needs and still allow more permanent solutions to be found in concert with other community solutions to our space needs that may develop. This move would free up some instructional space at Crooked River Elementary that is currently being used by the ESD and some of our staff. Most importantly the Board would want the community to know the exact need, the related cost, and how it will fit into a plan for future facility needs before making such a move.
   Steve Swisher is the Superintendent of the Crook County School District. He can be reached at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..