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Centennial, Reynolds go for bonds

The Centennial School District Board voted unanimously Wednesday, April 9, to refer an $83.8 million bond to voters on the November ballot.

Shar Giard, the board's vice chairwoman, said the bond's projects will address issues of overcrowding in Centennial Middle School, lack of classroom space elsewhere in the district and the need to update and repair some of the district's older classrooms.

She said there was no dissent among board members regarding the need for the bond because everyone agrees the time is now.

'We all see the need, we all see the need is great, and we all see if we don't do it now, there will be even more crowding in the future,' Giard said.

She added that the district polled voters in February, as well as held numerous meetings with community members and school employees, and found the proposed bond garnered 'a positive response overall.'

'People in the district, if they've lived here, they know the crowding problem.'

When asked if there were any concerns that the current state of the economy might adversely affect the bond's fate, Giard noted that the board was aware of that.

'We know that what were asking for is basic, and we know that what we're asking for is necessary, and the voters are going to see that.'

If passed, the bond would pay for construction of a new middle school and elementary school on land at Southeast 172nd Street and Foster Avenue; replacement of Centennial Learning Center with a new building on the existing site; renovation and repair of the district's older schools and classrooms; and various health and safety upgrades.

The estimated yearly cost of the measure would be about $1.35 per $1,000 assessed value, or about $18 a month, for the average Centennial district home.

The district said planning for the bond started in 2005, when a facilities committee formed to look at the district's demographics and critical building needs. The board agreed on a comprehensive list of building improvements needed due to the following issues:

• Centennial Middle School has more than 1,000 students and no spare rooms to put additional classrooms.

• Another 600 students are expected to enroll district-wide in the next few years from the more than 1,200 homes developers have planned in Centennial neighborhoods. Elementary schools are full, with few spare classrooms.

• Most of the district's elementary schools date back to the 1950s and '60s. Most have original flooring and cabinetry, and lighting and windows that are not energy efficient. These classrooms and other facilities, such as the vocational wing of Centennial High School, and parts of the current middle school, have never been updated.

The bond would cover classroom updates and remodeling projects at Lynch View, Lynch Wood, Harold Oliver Primary, Pleasant Valley and Centennial Middle School; renovation of Centennial High School's vocational wing; replacement or removal of portable classrooms at Lynch Meadows; and technology projects at Centennial Middle and High schools, Pleasant Valley and Butler Creek.

• Many schools have health and safety concerns such as rusty pipes, roofing, asbestos, heating and ventilation and sidewalks or playgrounds with cracked asphalt. The bond would cover the replacement of rusty or leaking pipes and plumbing fixtures at Harold Oliver Intermediate, Lynch Meadows and Centennial Middle School; heating/ventilation projects at Lynch Meadow; roofing at Pleasant Valley; and various safety and health related repairs and projects, from fixing cracked asphalt to installing handicap accessible features, at Harold Oliver Primary and Intermediate, Pleasant Valley, and Centennial Middle and High schools.

A breakdown at www.centennial.k12.or.us/news/cmail/current.htm, summarizes projects covered by the proposed bond.

Reynolds

by Rob Cullivan

staff writer

Citing the need to address overcrowded classrooms and aged buildings, the Reynolds School Board voted 5-2 Wednesday, April 9, to refer a bond to voters this November.

Specifics of the bond are still being determined, but whatever its final shape, the bond will not exceed $98 million, according to John Nelsen, board chairman and a bond supporter.

Details on the measure should be available within the next two to three months, he said, but the bond will definitely call for replacing Wilkes Elementary with a new school; the building of another elementary school in Troutdale; the addition of classrooms to H.B. Lee and Reynolds middle schools; and renovation of Reynolds High School to create more classroom space and enhance instruction.

'Long before we ask any voter to make a decision, we will give specific breakdowns on what we want to do,' Nelsen said. He added that the proposed bond was 'the best value proposition we can offer while still meeting the needs of our kids.'

The board's resolution noted that in making its decision, the board 'carefully studied the facilities, enrollment data and projected enrollment growth' in the district and gathered public input at 45 community forums and meetings.

In previous statements, board members have noted that enrollment has increased district-wide by more than 1,425 students since the district's last bond measure passed in 2000, and that there is almost no extra classroom space in the district. By 2017, the district will need at least 60 new classrooms to accommodate a projected enrollment increase of between 1,500 and 2,500 over the next nine years.

In its resolution, the board said it found that voters 'clearly understand that schools are overcrowded; and want to protect their investments in schools by making necessary improvements; and support improvements that increase energy efficiency and sustainable building practices to lower operating costs.'

The resolution also stated the board found voters believe these are the district's most urgent priorities:

• Relieving crowding at Reynolds High School. Nelsen said the bond would not contain any funding for a new high school, as the board believes there is not enough public support at this time for such a proposition. Nonetheless, he stressed again that the bond would cover costs of renovation and upgrading Reynolds.

• Remodeling and completing essential safety upgrades and adding more classrooms at middle schools to accommodate enrollment growth.

• Replacing Wilkes, which is 95 years old.

• Building an additional elementary school to relieve crowding as well as adding classrooms district-wide for all-day kindergarten and enrollment growth.

• Buying land for school sites.

• Addressing 'urgent safety and classroom needs at the other 10 elementary schools.'

• Establishing a citizens oversight committee to ensure funds are used as intended.

Rick Phelps, a board member who voted against the resolution, believes its timing is ill conceived, given the state of the economy, including rising fuel costs and the housing foreclosure crisis. If anything, the district needs to make relieving its No. 1 problem - overcrowding at Reynolds High - its No. 1 priority.

'When you have a limited budget, and you go shopping, you have to cut down to a few things,' he said.

He added that the district should focus on creating a new high school, possibly on the site of Reynolds Middle School, which housed a high school before Columbia and Reynolds high schools merged in 1989.

'If we cut down the overcrowding at the high school and address that, we'll have a lot less problems for the district,' Phelps said.

Voters turned down a $115 million bond in 2006.

On that note, Nelsen said he believes voters should know that the only way for school districts in Oregon to address construction needs is through such bond measures. General operation fees come through the state, he added.