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Riverdale voters approve new school bond

Riverdale School officials can breathe easier now. Multnomah County is finished counting ballots, and the school's general obligation bond to improve the grade school passed with 55 percent approval.

On election night, only about 400 votes had been counted in a district with 1,700 registered voters, and by Nov. 5 at noon, the county had only counted about half the ballots.

The final count was 697 voting yes, and 560 voting no in Multnomah County, while the few on the Clackamas County side voted 26 yes and 20 no.

'It was nerve racking,' said Superintendent Terry Hoagland. 'Even though they were in our favor (early on) we were very cautious saying it was in our favor. There were more people in our district who did not have kids than that do and so that was a concern for us. We also had several voters at Lewis and Clark College.'

There are about 350 registered voters who live on campus at Lewis and Clark.

Voters were asked to approve $21.5 million general obligation bonds for the renovation of the grade school.

The current grade school's main building is 90 years old, and the other seven surrounding buildings are between 40-50 years old. In the renovation, four of the seven would be replaced with a new two-story structure.

The bonds are estimated at about $1.19 per $1,000 of assessed value and would mature in 30 years.

'It just says that this community is feeling really good about this and a lot of people are behind this project and know the need to create a better and new environment for the kids - especially around health and safety,' added Hoagland.

Less than a day after calling the election, Riverdale held a design expo last Thursday night. There were breakout sessions looking at getting community input on key areas: Overall design, LEED certification, landscaping and meeting the needs of current and future educational programs. The plan is to have Mahlum Architects use the ideas presented to come forward with more detailed plans, said school board chair Chris Hall.

'The architect's design will incorporate historical elements, maximize existing space while recognizing economies of scale, and improve landscaping in keeping with the neighborhood,' said Hoagland.

The next expo will be scheduled for mid-December.

The district has spent the last year in planning mode to find a solution to the aging buildings. In recent years, money that could be used in the classroom has instead been diverted to maintenance issues around the campus.

The renovation would bring buildings up to code, provide facilities more conducive to technology, upgrade to more energy-efficient systems, and even refinanced $1.5 million in outstanding debt.

The school board hopes to break ground on June 15, 2009, and finish before fall 2010.

Currently the district plans to lease Smith Elementary School, 8935 SW 52nd Ave. in Portland from Portland Public Schools during the 2009-2010 school year. Smith was closed in 2005.

'This is a great piece for ths community,' said Hoagland. 'It's something that's very positive and very invigorating for our community.'