Culver School District begins building

Bond funds the replacement of aging facilities

By Tyler Leeds / The Bulletin

Published Aug 13, 2014 at 12:01AM

Fourth time a charm

Bond measures over the past decade that sought to tackle a list of deficiencies at Culver:

• $20 million bond, November 2006 Failed, 63 percent to 38 percent

• $14.5 million bond, November 2011 Failed, 67 percent to 33 percent

• $9.8 million bond, May 2013 Failed, 53 percent to 47 percent

• $8.8 million bond, November 2013

Passed, 50.2 percent (590 votes) to 49.8 percent (585 votes)

The Culver School District has begun putting its hard-earned construction bond to work, with the demolition of its aging upper-elementary wing beginning this week.

Last November, 590 voters — representing a slim 50.2 percent majority — supported an $8.8 million proposal to upgrade the school district’s buildings, all of which are clustered on the same campus. Similar measures had failed three times since 2006, leaving some of Culver’s 650 students in asbestos-tainted classrooms with wiring that could handle only one space heater in the winter.

Work is underway to remove a wing that held third-, fourth- and fifth-graders, as well as a computer lab and an extra high school room. The upper-elementary students displaced by the demolition will move into recently installed portable modular classrooms — often called trailers — this fall, while a new building rises in the footprint of the old structure.

“The building had simply outlived its use,” said Superintendent and Culver Elementary Principal Stefanie Garber. “The heating system wasn’t working, and the wiring was from the early 1960s and needed a full upgrade, so it was more cost-effective to replace the site than to continue adding duct tape to it.”

Designs for the new wing are taking shape, with Bend-based BBT Architects gathering feedback from teachers and community members. The plans will cater to a new pedagogical approach the district adopted last year. With the help of OSU-Cascades and federal and state grants, Culver is shifting its curriculum to embrace the STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — fields, while also centering class time around long-term projects.

“Desk space isn’t always the most conducive to project-based learning, so we’re building flexibility into the design,” Garber said.

Two classrooms dedicated to this approach are being built in the new wing and added to both the middle and high school. If enrollment picks up, these six classrooms will serve traditional purposes, but until then, they will be dedicated to projects and STEM. The rooms will be connected by a wall that can open and unify the space. Additionally, at the middle and elementary level, the classrooms will have transparent garage doors that can open to the outdoors, “in case they have a messy project,” Garber said.

“We’re bringing this campus up to the standard of learning that is expected in education across the state,” said Project Manager Brett Hudson. “This project really makes the district competitive, the kind of place people will want to be.”

Another addition to the high school funded by the bond is a media center, which Garber said she hopes to have open to the community after hours and on weekends.

“There are not many gathering places in Culver, so this is a wonderful space to have,” she said. “We could potentially even provide classes through a partnership with (Central Oregon Community College) or our own technology folks to give classes in the evening.”

Not all of the changes are visible — Garber said the district’s “mom and pop” wireless access will be increased to “industrial strength.”

“It’s not all that flashy, but the staff and students will notice right away,” Garber said.

Hudson said the district is “crossing our fingers” to have the construction completed by Thanksgiving 2015.

“It would give us the opportunity to get staff in and have classrooms set up,” he said. “It’s always a mad race, but we could hopefully move students in by around Christmas break.”

— Reporter: 541-633-2160, tleeds@bendbulletin.com