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ENDORSEMENT: Vote yes to pass Centennial bond

The residents of the Centennial School District should vote yes on Measure 26-175, which would issue $85 million in general obligation bonds.

Approval of the measure would leverage a state grant of more than $7 million, in addition to grants for energy conservation and seismic upgrades. Through those combined funding sources, approval of the bond would lead to total investment of about $100 million.

Those dollars will enable the district to take strategic steps toward reducing overcrowding across the board by constructing a second middle-school, a 144,000-square-foot building at 172nd Avenue and Foster Road.

The crowding issues reflect of a continual rise in student enrollment. The district, with 6,300 students, is already at capacity. Where are those kids coming from? Partly from a surge in home building in the Butler Creek and Pleasant Valley areas. But another part of that might simply reflect the popularity of the metro region, which is generally attracting new residents.

A Portland State University study forecasts the Centennial District will add another 1,000 students over the next 10 years. Without the new school, classroom learning will take a big hit as teachers spend more time managing the classroom organization and student behavior than actually teaching.

The construction of a new middle school will reduce crowding at the district’s elementary schools by allowing the district to relocate nearly 500 sixth-graders from elementary schools, sending them forward to the middle schools.

In addition, four of the district’s seven elementary schools (Lynch Meadows, Lynch View, Lynch Wood and Parklane) will see the addition of 5,500-square-foot multipurpose rooms.

While reducing crowding, the district will also use funds to invest in safety measures at all of the schools, with upgrades in intercoms, security cameras, secure vestibule entries, automatic door locks and updated fire and safety systems.

At the high school, the improvements will include the safety measures, new roof, expanded internet wiring for classroom connections and energy conservation improvements. The school’s athletics program will benefit from the installation of a turf football field and resurfaced tennis courts.

We understand that the cost is daunting for people living on a fixed income. At $1.31 per $1,000 of assessed property value, the cost would be $262 a year for property assessed at $200,000. That’s never an easy pill to swallow.

Had the district decided to address everything identified on its wish list, the bond amount would have been much higher. Instead, the $85 million bond represents a sensible request that will make the schools safer, and position the district to absorb the influx of students over the coming years.

And for those who worry that this money will be spent on pay raises and retirement funds, you should know that, by law, bond measures can only be spent on “stuff” — buildings, safety improvements, technology upgrade, etc.

Our recommendation: Show support for your neighborhood schools by voting yes on Measure 26-175.