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LOSD survey finds public support for $250 million bond

School board may push measure back to May 2017, although November ballot is still the target

HARTMANLake Oswego School District officials are contemplating a $250 million bond measure for the November ballot that could include safety upgrades, school replacements and facility upgrades and maintenance.

School board members on Monday reviewed the results of a phone survey that showed community support for a conceptual $250 million bond that would involve the replacement of two elementary schools and one junior high. The survey of 380 people was conducted between March 28 and April 3 by The Nelson Report, a Salem-based public opinion survey research organization.

The board also discussed a list of potential projects to place on the bond, using input gathered from the community through an online forum, at public meetings and in the phone survey. School board Chairwoman Liz Hartman told The Review this week that with so much maintenance needed throughout the district, the ideal plan would be to have an evergreen bond, which could be renewed within a few years to focus on a new set of projects.

Hartman said the district also may decide to move the bond measure from November to the May 2017 ballot, although the fall ballot is the target. Either way, she said, the idea of consolidating high schools and junior highs is not being discussed for the upcoming bond.

HOWELL“The board has not had any discussions about combining schools, and the board has not given the superintendent instruction to study combining schools,” Hartman said.

Meanwhile, school board member Sarah Howell said Monday that the results of the telephone survey are encouraging.

“What I got from this,” she said, “is that our community supports our schools and supports a greater (amount) of investment when just looking at those numbers side by side.”

Thirty-five percent of those surveyed said they preferred a hypothetical $250 million bond, compared to 28 percent who preferred a $180 million bond with fewer projects. The cost of a $250 million bond would be $1.95 per $1,000 of assessed property value, or $624 per year for the owner of a $320,000 home (the median assessed home value in Lake Oswego, according to Clackamas County). The cost of the smaller proposal would be $448 per year for a home with the same value.

Four percent of survey respondents said they were fine with either bond, 20 percent wanted neither, 3 percent had other ideas and 10 percent said they weren’t sure.

Several other questions and ideas for bonds also were included in the survey. One question asked for respondents’ opinion of a possible $250 million bond if it specifically included repairs, safety/security improvements, tech upgrades, school replacements, replacement of the district pool and covered seating at the Lakeridge High stadium. Exactly half of the respondents were in favor of the proposal, while 37 percent opposed it and 13 percent said they were not sure.

The results are not an indication that any of these proposals will come to pass, especially when it comes to including just one junior high on the list of projects.

WENDLAND“I always advocate that if we do the junior highs, you have to do them at the same time,” school board member John Wendland said.

The Facilities Condition Assessment performed last year said the district faces at least $98 million in seismic upgrades and repairs, not including soft costs such as personnel and design work. The report also ranked the facilities’ maintenance needs and found that Oak Creek Elementary School is in “critical” condition, the worst possible ranking, because design flaws have led to leaky walls and windows. Five other elementary schools are considered to be in “poor” condition, the second-worst ranking used by the report. The district’s two junior high schools also are in “poor” condition.

The report said most schools need new roofs or extensive roof repairs. In addition, Lakeridge Junior High is on unstable soil that expands in the rain and contracts in the heat, gradually cracking load-bearing walls and the foundation. Lake Oswego Junior High was one of the schools identified as being overcrowded and in need of expand classroom space.

Lake Oswego High is in “good” condition, according to the report, while Lakeridge High is in “fair” condition — the best possible rankings. Voters last approved a bond measure for the district in November 2000, with most of the $85 million going to rebuild LOHS and remodel Lakeridge.

BECK“There’s no doubt our junior highs (and elementary schools) need resources,” LOSD Superintendent Heather Beck said Monday. But that does not preclude the possibility of investment to expand educational offerings at the high schools.

“We don’t want to exclude the high schools (from the bond) because of the response we’ve gotten about career and technical education,” she told the board.

At recent meetings, members of the district’s Bond Development Committee have cited safety and security — possibly key cards, cameras and clear sight lines from front offices to front doors — and technology upgrades as priorities for the bond. Committee opinion varied on which schools to replace, although Oak Creek and River Grove elementary schools and the junior highs frequently were mentioned. Public opinion in an online forum called Thoughtexchange also put safety and security toward the top.

Thoughtexchange also sought input on the idea of consolidating LOHS and Lakeridge on one campus and the junior highs on another within 10 years, but that idea was not as popular. A majority of the public spoke out against the suggestion at public meetings and on Thoughtexchange, a process held in February and March.

“Consolidating the schools is a bad choice for Lake Oswego,” one commenter said.

By Jillian Daley
503-636-1281, ext. 109
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If you go

A community input session for the Bond Development Committee is coming up on: Wednesday, May 11, 6-8 p.m., at Forest Hills Elementary, 1133 Andrews Road, Lake Oswego.

For more information about Lake Oswego School District’s facilities improvement planning, visit bit.ly/1NvkS7X.