(Updated: adding video, comments from school staff, superintendent)
BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) — Nearly half of Bend-La Pine Schools’ buildings were built before 1980, and some were constructed more than 90 years ago. The district says many need major repairs and maintenance to keep students and staff safe. And they are seeking money from voters next week to make that happen.
Supporters are in the final days of campaigning for a hefty bond measure on next Tuesday’s ballot that would provide for upgrades and safety/security projects, including a major modernization at Bend Senior High School.
It’s a nearly $250 million construction bond, building on the 2017 bond that paid for repairs and new school construction in the district.
The 2022 construction bond, Measure 9-155, would issue $249.7 million in general obligation bonds to improve safety and modernize aging schools and classrooms — something Bend High Principal Chris Reese says is needed.
“We always say it’s not about the facility, it’s about the people,” Reese told NewsChannel 21 on Thursday. “It’s about our culture and our story, but those instructional spaces need a much-needed upgrade.”
Bend High would get the largest chunk of funds, devoted to revamping nearly the entire campus.
“This building’s tired,” Reese said. “It’s been here over 70 years, and many parts of the building were constructed in 1955. And we love our tradition and pride — but we can continue that with a new facility.”
If the measure passes, all 33 schools in the district will get security improvements, including upgrading locks on doors. Some would get maintenance upgrades, others modernized classrooms.
“Instructional, sound practices for a teacher is movement around the classroom. Some of these classrooms getting 35-40 students — it’s tight, and some of these teachers can’t really walk around and check in with students,” Reese said. “A design of a classroom that is larger, more open, allows for teachers to do the good job they do.”
If passed, the district will hire local contractors to do the work. Bend-La Pine Superintendent Dr. Steven Cook says the bond is not expected to increase current taxes, as old bonds are retired.
“We take our fiduciary responsibility of how we spend taxpayer dollars very seriously,” Dr. Cook said. “The process for making sure we’re maximizing each and every dollar that we reinvest into our schools.”
A campaign for the bond measure is being run by a political action group, Central Oregonians for Responsible Education. There is no organized opposition.
Here’s a summary look at the plans:
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