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School board votes against placing cell tower at Lakeridge Junior High

Decision based on timing as district assesses potential improvements and repairs to its facilities

Because of an uncertain future for its aging facilities, the Lake Oswego School Board voted 5-0 last week against entering into a lease agreement for placement of a Verizon cell tower at Lakeridge Junior High.

The district has not yet determined which improvement and repair projects it will place on a bond measure likely to go before voters in November, and “I’m a little disinclined to support this because of the transitions that are going on,” said Liz Hartman, board chairwoman.

Board member Sarah Howell said that with the district’s long-term facilities planning now underway, the idea of signing a new lease for use of school property made her a little nervous. Stuart Ketzler, the district’s senior executive director of business services, told the board that he agreed.

“This would be a complication in our long-term plans,” Ketzler said.

Lakeridge Junior High was listed in near-critical condition — with nearly $15.12 million in estimated seismic upgrades and needed repairs — in a district report last year. Cracks are visible on exterior and interior walls of the building, which sits atop soil that has a tendency to expand and contract depending on moisture levels. It would cost $33 million to replace the facility.

The proposed cell tower lease would have been based on standard terms for district cell tower agreements: a five-year lease, with a five-year extension option for up to 30 years at the district’s current rate of about $2,300 per month. The lease also would have included a provision that the cost of moving the tower at the district’s direction would be shared 50-50 between the district and Verizon.

The district, which signed its first cell lease in 1994, currently has nine cell towers on its property, all at secondary schools. Lease revenue generated $231,000 for the district last year.

Also at the meeting:

• The school board approved an increase in the monthly fee from $390 to $585 for its pre-kindergarten program, which serves children ages 4 and 5. The increase would be effective in the 2016-17 school year. The program runs from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. five days per week. Although not discussed at the meeting, the district also has a preschool program for 3-year-olds. It costs $195 per month for the two-day-per-week program and $275 per month for the three-day-per-week program.

The district announced last week that the deadline for applications for the 2016-17 school year is Jan. 29 for pre-K and preschool. Enrollment for both programs will be determined by a lottery on Feb. 4, and parents will be notified Feb. 9-12. To qualify for pre-K, students must be at least 4 years old as of Sept. 1, 2016; to be eligible for preschool, students must be at least 3 years old as of the same date. For more information, visit http://bit.ly/1ZxfG9X or call 503-534-2125.

• The school board learned about a proposal for several new courses, including a Luscher School to Farm Internship Program, AP Psychology, AP Chinese and World Language, for students at both Lakeridge and Lake Oswego high schools. New writing and English classes also were approved for both junior high schools. The proposal will come before the board for approval at a later date.

• Board members approved wage adjustments for employees at the district pool and Lake Grove Swim Park. In 2015, the district began the practice of reviewing wages for several pool and park positions on a calendar-year basis to make wages comply with an annual rise in Oregon's minimum wage law. The idea was to simplify payroll administration. While the state is maintaining the minimum wage at $9.25 for 2016, the district recommended and the board unanimously approved a 2 percent cost-of-living increase. That means that as of Jan. 1, the Step 1 wage for those who aren’t lifeguards or directors at the district pool or swim park is $9.44 per hour.

• As a housekeeping measure, the board declared the potential for a reduction in force, a step required in order to be in compliance with state law and agreements with the district’s unions. The board must provide a 90-day written notice to the teachers’ union and a 30-calendar-day notice to the classified union if employees are to be laid off. By announcing the potential for a reduction in force, the district fulfills these requirements. Donna Atherton, the district’s executive director of human resources, said the notice does not indicate that there will be a reduction in force. The board is presented with the notice at around this time every year because "state funding may fluctuate from year to year," Atherton told The Review this week.

By Jillian Daley
503-636-1281, ext. 109
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