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What if? Board contemplates bond alternatives

By Stephen Floyd

The Silver Falls School District Board has started discussing potential outcomes if a $138 million facilities bond does not pass during the Nov. 7 election.

At the board’s Oct. 9 meeting, possibilities ranged from a followup bond in May of 2024 to moving middle schoolers to the high school or outlying K-8 schools.

The board said there is a misconception that, if the bond fails, district business will continue as normal. Board Vice-Chair Aaron Koch said there may be significant changes in how and where students are educated if the district cannot afford to repair distressed buildings.

“If this bond does not pass, we could be in a position to make some very, very hard decisions,” he said.

The board’s highest priority was how to handle Silverton Middle School, which currently has a condemned wing and costs $100,000 annually to maintain above normal custodial expenses. Board consensus was the campus would likely be abandoned in the near future given its state of disrepair, which would then leave around 400 students without a school building.

Board members floated the idea of moving SMS students to Silverton High School and the outlying K-8 schools. This could create overcrowding, which would be a particular challenge given the district has a new contract with its teachers’ union establishing class size expectations.

The board discussed possibly making room by rejecting out-of-district transfer students and forcing current transfers back to their home districts. Members said this would negatively impact students who were suddenly removed from their schools, and noted transfers currently account for 10 percent of student-based revenue at SFSD.

And if a lack of facility improvements leads to increased maintenance costs, the district may have to make room in its budget through layoffs or the slashing of student programs, it was stated. This would further drive up class size, predicted the board members.

Board Chair Jennifer Traeger said one fallback option could be to go out for another bond during the May 21, 2024, election. She said this would be a “tough sell” if the bond already failed just months prior, and that an alternative bond proposal may not address the same level of need as the current bond.

She acknowledged the current bond may have its flaws, but encouraged voters to not let the proposal’s shortcomings overshadow the benefits it could provide.

“Let’s not make perfect the enemy of good,” she said.

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