Options on the table: School board faces many proposals

January 2015 Posted in News, School

Since the defeat of the $24.9 million bond measure in the November election, Silver Falls School District board members have listened to input, ideas and feedback from patrons and staff members.

As the board deliberates what to do next, it must weigh the pros and cons of each proposal.

The recurring question the board faces is when will Eugene Field School close. Although the board voted unanimously last May to shutter the 94-year-old facility, no time line was set. There have been arguments presented by patrons both in favor and against closing it.

Many options have been presented on how to best use the district’s facilities including would the Schlador Street campus be best for elementary or middle school students. Questions continued to swirl at board meetings and work sessions around where will the money come to pay for any project; what will the community support; what’s in the best interest long and short term for the district; and will patrons support a bond measure in the near future.

Community member Andy Diacetis invites patrons from both in-town and rural schools to attend Eugene Field Solutions town hall meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 6, at 6:30 p.m. to provide their input. The meeting is at Immanuel Lutheran Church, 303 North Church St., in Silverton.

Repurposing facilities, multi- track options presented by administrators
Silver Falls School District Curriculum Director Linda Myers made a presentation to the school board at its Dec.15 work session.

All the district’s administrators met to deliberate and debate the pros and cons of several ideas, Myers said, adding they put everything on the table.
Although they didn’t agree on every idea, Myers said, they all agreed it’s time to get out of Eugene Field.

“We think it’s time for the board to take a vote and move on,” Myers said, adding if the board sets a deadline, the staff will work to find a solution.

“We don’t think there needs to be another committee to discuss what to do. It’s like Ground Hog’s Day. Every time the alarm rings, we are having the same discussion. Since 1997, there have been seven facilities committees. We have collected information for 20 years.”

Myers emphasized the importance of the board making a decision quickly to give administrators time to implement a plan.

Options administrators recommended for board consideration:
• Liquidate district buildings and property that aren’t being used so the district has a viable source of revenue to fund facilities projects.

• Repurpose current facilities. Mark Twain would be for kindergarten through second grade by adding a covered area and Robert Frost would be for third through fifth grade. The Schlador Street campus would serve sixth through eighth students with the addition of three double modulars. Community Roots would have to move out of Schlador Street.

• Or, the district could develop a multi-track calendar. Students would be on one of four tracks, attending school for 60 days and off for 20 days.

Kindergarten and first graders along with Community Roots students would be at Schlador; second through fifth graders at Robert Frost and sixth through eighth graders at Mark Twain. All students would be off in August. The high school would retain the traditional September – June calendar.

Repurposing facilities, multi- track options presented by administrators
Silverton resident Gene Pfeifer, a leading opponent of the last two school bond measures, suggests two options for resolving the district’s facilities dilemma. He said time is of an essence for a bond to be placed on the ballot this spring.

“Everyone’s participation in the next 30 days, in terms of which bond is appropriate and will succeed, is the key to the success of a solution,” he wrote.

Pfeifer’s options are:

• A $10 million repair and upgrade bond, allocating about $6.5 million to Eugene Field, and $3.5 million for rural schools, technology and security.

• A bond of $15-16  million, allocating $11.5 million for a 53,000 sq. ft. new school and a 10,000 sq .ft. play shed, plus the same $3.5 million for rural schools, security and technology. The new school would be near Robert Frost.

The key to all of this is, “What will the rural schools accept?,” Pfeifer wrote. “My personal chagrin, should Eugene Field be abandoned, will be the loss of over $5 million of functional equity. Also, the historical significance of Eugene Field should be preserved.”
Pfeifer said there are pros and cons to either remediation or a new facility. What’s also important, he wrote, is a process that is not “under undue direct influence of the SFSD staff; that determines which option will be favorable to the both the rural and urban constituents in terms of a bond passage.”

He would like to see the district’s energy placed into the “positive process of preparing for a successful May bond election” and the preparation of a firm budget and for work to start in June. The question is, Pfeifer said, what can be accomplished that is socially, economically and scholastically successful? A $10 million remediation or new school?

Superintendent’s option: Focus on converting Schlador Street
At the Nov. 25 board work session, Silver Falls Superintendent Andy Bellando recommended to the board:

• Affirm its decision to discontinue the use of Eugene Field; find a temporary new location for Eugene Field staff and students and consider alternative revenue sources to pay for improvements to the Schlador Street campus.

He emphasized the school district would not use any portions of the Schlador Street building deemed unsafe, including the two-story structure.

Bellando estimated the conversion of the Schlador Campus to an elementary school, based on the current enrollment and programs at Eugene Field, at around $2 million. At the Dec. 15 work session, maintenance and facility director Joel Smallwood estimated it would cost $2.5 million to convert Schlador Street for 6-7 grade students and Community Roots Charter School staying on campus.

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