New school? Public input sought

December 2012 Posted in News, School

By Kristine Thomas

Before the Silver Falls School District’s board members make a decision on whether or not to place a bond measure on the May 2013 ballot that would fund reconstruction and maintenance projects of district buildings, they want to gather more feedback from the community.

In November, the board approved the Long Range Facilities Committee’s recommendations to vacate Eugene Elementary School as soon as funding allows; maintain the K-8 model in rural schools; maintain district-wide student transfer option if economically feasible and either remodel or partially deconstruct and rebuild the Schlador Street Campus, when funding is available.

Superintendent Andy Bellando said there are several steps the board must take before making a decision on whether or not to place a bond on the May ballot. The board wants to share with the community the future educational requirements for schools and how these will impact facilities.

Community members are invited to learn about plans for the district’s facilities and to provide their thoughts Wednesday, Dec. 12, 7 p.m. in the commons at Silverton High School, 1456 Pine St.

The board is considering a bond measure to fund the recommendations presented by the Long Range Facilities Committee, which that also included maintenance projects at all of the schools. The board has until March  to decide whether or not to move forward with the bond proposal.

Bellando said the district is in the process of accepting applications from architects. Once an architect is chosen, the board will ask for an assessment of cost efficiency – should the former high school be renovated, or portions torn down and rebuilt.

The committee recommended making the former high school site into a school for fifth through eighth grade students. There would be two separate wings – one for fifth and sixth grade students, one the seventh and eighth grade students. All students would share common areas such as the gym, cafeteria and athletic fields. The committee also recommended vacating Eugene Field School site and selling it. The students would either move to Robert Frost or Mark Twain, with the idea one school would serve kindergarten through second grade and the other third and fourth grade students.

Bellando emphasized the board is in the planning stage and no decisions about how to use the schools or the viability of a bond have been made.

Right now is the time to gather information so the best decision can be made, he said, including figuring out the cost per square foot for remodeling versus demolition and building at the old high school site. Bellando said the options include tearing down the two and three story portions of the Schlador Street building and retaining the single-level classroom wings.

If the plan goes forward, Bellando said the new middle school would be for students who are currently enrolled or are in the boundaries of the town schools. The board decided not to create a single middle school for all Silver Falls School District students.

“We understand there is a real value in the K-8 schools and it is an important model we want to keep,” he said. “We also want to emphasis the new building would have separate wings for the different age groups.”

Bellando said the concerns about the Schlador Street building have not gone away.  Those concerns include the building’s aging infrastructure, failing boilers, outdated electrical system, seismic stability and general safety issues.

That’s why the board has asked for a study on the costs on all options, he said.

Bellando said if the board decides to place a bond on the May 2013 ballot, the projected tax rate would be the same as what taxpayers are currently paying.

On June 30, 2013, the bond measure for the first phase of the Pine Street campus will be paid off. The board is considering a 20-year bond measure for $33 million with a rate of $3.34 per $1,000 of assessed value of a home. The bond would  pay for deferred maintenance projects at all the schools and to create the new middle school.

The question the board is hoping community members will answer is “are they willing to invest in their community’s schools?” Bellando said.

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