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Voters appear to reject Gresham-Barlow bond

With more than 89 percent of the votes counted as of 9 p.m. Nov. 5, a 25-year $210 million bond measure proposed by the Gresham-Barlow School District appeared headed toward defeat.

The election was marked by low voter turnout, with slightly less than 31 percent of registered voters participating. Almost 60 percent of the school district's voters, or 6,141, said “no” to the bond, whereas 4,148, or slightly more than 40 percent, voted “yes.”

Clackamas County experienced somewhat higher turnout, with slightly less than 40 percent of registered voters participating. In Clackamas County, as of 9 p.m., only 912 voters, or more than 30 percent, approved the bond, whereas almost 70 percent, or 2,084, voted no.

The bond would have funded improvements to 18 of the district’s 19 schools, and paid to rebuild, repurpose or remodel three schools — Gresham High School, West Gresham Elementary School and Deep Creek Elementary School.

In addition, the bond would have funded removal of 38 portable classrooms and expand building to accommodate full-day kindergarten, which is coming in two years. The bond also included technology upgrades, better gyms, play fields, performing arts space, new roofs, siding and electrical and plumbing systems, seismic upgrades and security improvements.

Midge Collins, co-chairwoman of the pro-bond group Citizens for Schools expressed disappointment with the outcome.

“In my conversations with voters who voted 'no,' they didn't really understand the value of what this bond would do for our kids and community,” she said.

She added that her group contacted thousands of voters via informational fliers, social media, phone calls, public forums and door-to-door visits. In the end, however, all the effort was for naught.

“I think people just look at it as it's more taxes,” she said, noting she's concerned for the lack of support the vote shows for area schools.

“Why would a family stay here when there are other communities where kids can get a safe and updated education?” she said. “If we don't make changes and invest in the future of America, how can we expect it to be better?”

Jim Schlachter, Gresham-Barlow's superintendent, said the district plans to poll voters to find out why they rejected the bond. It's not clear, he said, if the low turnout had more to do with the bond's defeat than the fact voters didn't like the measure. At some point, he said, the district will have to propose another bond since the challenges it was designed to address remain.

“We're just going to have to figure out what the voters will approve and go in that direction,” he said.

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