Is there value in planning ahead? For the past 25 years, the Bend-La Pine school district has thought so and done so. In order to meet space needs to accommodate a fast-growing student enrollment, the district developed a planning process in the late 1980s. Rather than constantly playing catch-up or taking a “loudest squeak gets the grease” approach, it was determined that a careful, thoughtful and inclusive process would best meet community needs over time. A process was developed and tried, and has been serving the area well since then. It includes specific forecasts that indicate when new facilities and major maintenance will be necessary.
A Sites and Facilities committee was convened at the onset of each capital improvement funding benchmark. Approximately every five years since 1989, this committee, comprised of community members, parents, staff, architects, engineers, teachers and other interested parties, has met to review district space and maintenance needs. These needs were categorized into existing facility repair and upgrades, and additional space (new schools) to address existing and predicted growth. Repair and upgrade needs were generated by staff at each facility and from deferred maintenance records. Growth numbers and demographic information were provided by Portland State University researchers.
The committee was tasked with analyzing as many as 700 requests each time to determine viability and level of importance. Committee members visited each school site to better understand the requests and to make informed decisions. All final approved projects met a specific list of criteria set by the committee at the beginning of its planning and selection process. They also heard the perspective supported by abundant data that the cost of needed repairs and upgrades will only increase when continually deferred. The following have been common criteria used by the committee through the years: safety, operations needs, energy and systems upgrades or replacements, state and federal laws (e.g., ADA requirements), and building or site improvements.
The current Sites and Facilities Committee began its work in 2009. Some returning volunteers brought needed experience and helped develop a clear understanding of the big picture. For several iterations of this work I served as staff. Now, as a retired district facilities director, I have served on the latest committee and can attest to the many hours spent in these important deliberations.
This planning process, coupled with the administration’s financial planning, has put the Bend-La Pine district in a positive position. It knows what it needs to meet the education challenges of the community it serves today and in the future. Included in the planning is assuring past bonds are paid off when new ones are required in order to keep taxes from rising. It is this committee that recommended the current bond.
Even through the worst of the recent economic crisis, Bend-La Pine Schools continued to increase in number of students. Now, indications are strong that we will see more growth. Each new student brings state funding for actual day-to-day operations. But in Oregon, we pass bonds to build and maintain schools. The state won’t help with that. And, honestly, we may be better having recommendations from a group of local people who have studied school district needs in the context of their knowledge of our community.
Members of this committee have researched, argued, imagined and been realistic. Most importantly, they have represented the very best interests of our community in planning for the future. Good education happens in this district in facilities that are built and maintained with careful planning. Let’s all support this effort with a yes vote on the Bend-La Pine School district bond measure.