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Bond fails – Silver Falls School District discusses next steps

By Stephen Floyd

A $138 million bond measure for the Silver Falls School District failed by a wide margin in the Nov. 7 election.

Results published Nov. 8 by the Oregon Secretary of State showed Measure 24-486 failing by 55.37% out of 6,782 ballots cast by voters in Marion and Clackamas counties.

The SFSD bond would have funded improvements to all SFSD school buildings including $75 million to
rebuild Silverton Middle School.

SFSD ‘Disappointed’

District spokesperson Derek McElfresh said administrators were disappointed, but knew this was a possible outcome. They will now go back to the school board to explore alternatives.

“We’d like to express our gratitude for the thousands of hours of work poured into this effort over the past five years by so many members of our community,” said McElfresh. 

“We share your disappointment in this outcome, and will continue to work with community members to seek solutions to the many facilities needs facing our schools.”

Board Chair Jennifer Traeger gave her “sincere appreciation” to those who helped craft the bond proposal. She said the district’s most pressing need is still a new facility for Silverton Middle School, where the 1938 wing stands uninhabitable and the remaining campus is decaying.

During the board’s Oct. 9 meeting members discussed possibly moving middle schoolers to the outlying K-8 schools, or into Silverton High School with alternating times of use. Traeger said they could also try for another bond during the May 21, 2024, election.

Opposition open to new effort

Karl Dettwyler, who organized the opposition PAC No on 24-486, said “No” voters could get behind a May bond proposal if it addressed their concerns.

He said the high pricetag turned off many voters, as well as the potential long-term costs of facility improvements. He said Measure 24-486 was a good starting point and both sides can collaborate toward a new solution with a wider range of perspectives.

He said he appreciated the efforts of those who supported the measure and believes “we all care for our community, the children and buildings they are in.”

“Don’t give up and let’s get back to the drawing board with something that is more palatable to all the voters,” said Dettwyler.

Distrust frustrates supporters

Hilary Dumitrescu, with the pro-bond PAC Silver Falls Neighbors for Schools, said the results “were not quite a surprise, but still disappointing.”

She said bond supporters gave “a deluge” of information to the community and she is not sure what more could have been said to convince “No” voters. She said deep distrust has been sown through misinformation and partisan politics, and this inability to trust neighbors and institutions will continue getting in the way of big decisions like the bond.

“I don’t know what comes next for the district, but as for me, I’m going back to concentrating on my family and my job, both of which have been crunched during the last few months,” said Dumitrescu.

SFEA focused on kids

Lori Wyer, president of the Silver Falls Education Association, said teachers were “saddened” by the election results and grateful to all who worked on the bond. 

The union formally endorsed Measure 24-486. Wyer said they hoped the message that students deserve to learn in safe and healthy schools would resonate with voters. She said teachers will continue to focus on doing what is best for students as administrators put together “Plan B.”

“Whatever the final outcome, we will continue to put our students first,” said Wyer.

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