School District readies capital facilities bond

Board meets tonight to decide on 20-year, $57 million proposal

MUSIC room at May Street Elementary heats up fast, especially when students are busy drumming. Jennifer Harty leads kindergarteners in rhythm exercises Monday in a room that the building’s aged HVAC system no longer properly cools. Replacement of May Street School is one of the major elements of the proposed bond levy.

Photo by Kirby Neumann-Rea
MUSIC room at May Street Elementary heats up fast, especially when students are busy drumming. Jennifer Harty leads kindergarteners in rhythm exercises Monday in a room that the building’s aged HVAC system no longer properly cools. Replacement of May Street School is one of the major elements of the proposed bond levy.

School improvements take center stage in tonight’s Hood River County School District Board of Directors meeting.

The board will be asked to adopt the Facilities Master Plan, a document more than a year in development, and one of two fiscal plans to go before the voters on May 17.

Also on the budget are approval of the district’s financial audit, and reports on English Language Development, HRVHS 2015 graduation rates, and admission of non-resident students. The board meets at 6:30 p.m. at the District Office, 1011 Eugene St.

The bond resolution states that “the District determined that a need exists for the District to finance capital, evaluate the need for safety improvements, and apply for the Oregon School Capital Improvement Match.”

Under the resolution, the district would ask for general bond indebtedness of no more than $57,175,000 over a 20-year period.

The cost per $1,000 in assessed valuation would be $1.83 — the same rate that taxpayers are now paying under the existing 15-year bond that expires in June.

Superintendent Dan Goldman said the district could see bond revenue accruing by fall 2017, but most of the improvements would not be done until 2017 — and some farther out than that because of lengthy design processes, such as the Science Technology Engineering and Math wing at Wy’east Middle School, one of the proposal’s largest improvements. That project would replace the current 1960s-era science classrooms.

Goldman said the range of facility improvements addresses student safety as well as instructional and facility equity concerns, while reflecting what the district heard people see as filling the district’s needs and taxpayers’ willingness to pay.

The largest single project under the bond proposal would be construction of a new school at the May Street campus — replacing a campus made up of portions built in the 2000s, 1970s, 1950s, and 1920s.

“This plan recognizes a changing world with higher emphasis on student and staff safety,” states the master plan, pointing to the need for “improved facility access security systems, surveillance technologies, and improved hardware on classroom doors.”

The master plan states: “The long-range master plan addresses the overall aging infrastructure of the District’s facilities and the projected enrollment growth over the longer term of 20 years. The median age of the District’s buildings is 78 years from their original construction date at the time of the writing of this report. The last new schools (HRVHS and Westside) were constructed 47 years ago. While repairs and renovations can keep many of these buildings operating, over the extended lifespan the District must consider full replacements.

The operating costs are too great to bear in the operating budget that should be prioritized toward teaching and learning.” The short-term plan should address immediate issues related to:

  • Addressing deferred maintenance and aging facilities, and repairing and replacing outdated and failing building systems;
  • Accommodating classroom space shortages and addressing short-term enrollment growth projections;
  • Improving the safety of the facilities;
  • Providing greater opportunities for teachers to effectively impact student learning by increasing technology assimilation across curriculum areas and investing in integrated STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and

Mathematics (STEM) learning across the whole district.

The plan specifically addresses the historic and neighborhood roles of Hood River Middle School this way:

“The ability to expand the footprint for Hood River Middle School, if maintaining the athletic field is a necessity, is nearly maximized. Future enrollment projections indicate that the school will need to be expanded.

The main facility is a historic building, further restricting the district’s capacity to address enrollment growth. Further, the facility condition index is indicating the cost to operate the school is close to outweighing the benefit of full replacement. The Hood River Middle School is an iconic structure and center for community life in the City of Hood River.

In community work sessions there is a desire to maintain the historic facility. The District could begin consideration of a new replacement middle school with increased enrollment capacity, modern energy conservation features, and built for 21st Century learning modalities on its 18-acre parcel at the Sherman Street site within the City’s Urban Growth Boundary.

“A short-range consideration was a six-classroom addition that could be expanded up to 10 classrooms to accommodate short-term enrollment growth. However, this idea creates another satellite building on the campus and encroaches on the athletic fields. The long term plan to construct a new, larger middle school on the Sherman Street site should be strongly considered.”

The plan states that “the design team working with the District administration and facilities staff identified the most critical of the identified deferred maintenance items at each school for the highest priority needs. The primary criteria were those systems that were well beyond expected useful life, failing systems, safety and health issues.”

These include:

  • Heating system and boiler replacements
  • Major restroom renovations
  • Roofing replacements
  • Replace worn interior finishes
  • District wide school security system and access controls
  • Playground safety renovations

To accommodate existing classroom needs and accommodate short-term (five to 10 years) kindergarten through eighth grade projected enrollment growth, the District has identified a number of projects to create a total of 11 classrooms (286 seats) at lower valley elementary schools including 100 at May Street and, at Westside Elementary School, the possible addition of six classrooms, replacing an existing modular building,

The facilities plan states that “the District should consider the cost-benefit of maintaining May Street Elementary School in its current form because of the smaller property footprint, the poor state of the necessary operating systems (HVAC, plumbing, electrical, etc.),and increasing student enrollment without a full replacement is not recommended.”

Mid Valley Elementary School — the District should consider siting a modular structure with two classrooms to provide immediate capacity issues.

Population growth in the mid valley area is more uncertain; constructing a permanent addition is not recommended at this time.

Wy’east Middle School — Three to four classroom expansion and STEM Innovation Center resulting from relocation of science classrooms into a new STEM Center addition

Hood River Valley High School — short term growth will be accommodated through increased efficiency of classroom utilization and increased enrollment in the Alternative Program

The plan recognizes the need to provide spaces that support STEM programs through interactive, hands-on, team and project-based learning that prepares students for a changing global, technology-based world.

  • Wy’east STEM Innovation Center addition — provides a new collaborative learning environment that builds on current STEM programs at the school with facilities that encourage inter-disciplinary learning.
  • Invest in classroom technologies and online learning pedagogy across the school district.
  • Increased classroom technology hardware for increased student engagement and learning.
  • New district-wide server network.
  • Classroom Wi-Fi upgrade.
  • District-wide Communication System.
  • Upgraded classroom projectors / computer hubs.

“Technology is ubiquitous, touching almost every part of our lives, our communities, and our homes. Integrating technology into classroom instruction means more than teaching basic computer skills and software programs in a separate computer class. Effective technology integration will occur across the curriculum in ways that research shows deepen and enhance the learning process,” the plan states. “The existing infrastructure is need of significant replacements and upgrades to meet current technology needs.”

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