By Tyler Leeds

The Bulletin

The Bend-La Pine School Board on Tuesday night approved a nearly $28 million contract for the construction of a middle school.

The board awarded the contract to Kirby Nagelhout Construction, which beat out a bid from Skanska USA by $200,000. The 800-seat school will be on a site adjacent to Miller Elementary and Summit High School. The approved contract includes funds for a 14,624-square-foot wing meant to hold 200 students that the district earlier considered not building to save on costs. Construction will be funded by a $96 million bond passed by voters last May, and the school is expected to open in fall 2015.

“The bids were very competitive and very good, which was good news for the district,” said Chief Operations and Financial Officer Brad Henry.

Board member Peggy Kinkade noted, “The bid far exceeded our expectations as far as being low.”

Kinkade said that any decision to put off building the optional wing probably would have ended up costing the district more, given the bid the district received for the entire 800-student building.

In April, the board also approved a contract for Kirby Nagelhout Construction to build an elementary school. That school, which will hold 600 students, will be located between Reed Market and Brosterhous roads east of Third Street.

During a budget meeting before the board meeting, the board and budget committee discussed the consequences of changing the district’s pay-to-play fees for student athletics.

Currently, middle school students pay $40 per activity; high school students pay $100. A family’s total cost is capped at $300 for high school athletics. Students who are identified as needing free or reduced lunch are eligible for scholarships through the Education Foundation and district.

The discussion centered on how to encourage the participation of students unable to afford the fee and embarrassed by the prospect of being identified as eligible for a scholarship.

Kinkade noted that many high school students fail to report needing free or reduced lunch. She suggested that lowering the fee may encourage more participation as more low-income students would be able to afford it without receiving a scholarship.

Budget committee member Tom Bahrman said he wanted more information on how students would react to fee changes.

“In abstract, say we reduce it, it may have an impact or not,” he said. “Cost should not be a barrier at all; that’s my philosophy. But is changing cost the answer and by how much? Let’s find out.”

Board member Mike Jensen said he supports allowing all students to participate, but that he is concerned how a reduction or elimination of fees may affect other school operations.

No action was taken to change athletic fees or any other aspects of the 2014-15 school year budget. It was approved by the budget committee, which serves as an advisory group. The school board has the ability to alter the budget and has final say on implementation. Final board approval of the budget is expected in June.

— Reporter: 541-633-2160,