Hood River County School District is pursuing a capital bond, which they hope to present to voters on the May election ballot.
Spurred by facility disrepair and looming enrollment overcapacity, the bond strives to ease the situation by adding classrooms, fixing broken infrastructure, and possibly replacing the archaic May Street Elementary School with a new building on the same property.
Community input gathered at feedback sessions, workgroups and in phone surveys has been largely in favor of a bond — especially for the option that keeps taxes at their existing rate instead of hiking them.
At Wednesday’s meeting, the Hood River County School Board of Directors heard an update on the bond project from Superintendent Dan Goldman, and gave administration the go-ahead to draft a resolution and bring it back to them at their next meeting, Feb. 10.
Before the board came two bond estimates — roughly $44 million and $62 million, respectively.
Goldman advocated for the larger option, citing overburdened facility and deferred maintenance needs, rising enrollment, safety and security concerns, technological upgrades and a need for long-range strategic planning.
Five schools are at or over capacity: Mid Valley, Westside, May Street, Hood River Middle School and Hood River Valley High School, according to a December school report.
However, Goldman’s most grave message was the degree of maintenance needed at Hood River’s schools.
“We have a number of schools that are either at critical replacement or they will be the next time we have this conversation,” he said.
The median age of school facilities in HRCSD is 78 years old. HRVHS and Westside are the youngest of the group, at 47, while May Street is oldest at 94, according to a school report.
May Street’s age is showing — if not cosmetically.
“The building looks good … but looks are one thing and inside (facilities) are different,” Goldman said. All major systems are in need of repair: roofing, HVAC and plumbing, among others.
Weighing the costs of ongoing repairs versus cost of replacement, the building would be cheaper to taxpayers if it were replaced, Goldman said.
Other major items proposed for the bond package are two modular classrooms at Mid Valley Elementary School, as well as a three classroom expansion and new STEM Innovation Center at Wy’east Middle School.
Though the School Board has not yet been given a final resolution for the bond, board members generally agreed with Goldman’s recommendation for the bigger option before them.
“We’re nodding in agreement,” board member Jan Veldhuisen Virk said for the record.
School Board Chair David Russo said he hopes local communication over the bond includes not only “tangible things” like the school replacement, but also strategic planning for “infrastructure as a whole,” as recommended by administration.
The School Board will meet again Feb. 10 at the HRCSD District Office and Feb. 24 at May Street Elementary School.