By Kailey Fisicaro
Bend-La Pine Schools staff proposed a land swap that would provide a site for the new high school at Tuesday evening’s school board meeting.
The school district is considering swapping its approximately 50-acre plot in southeast Bend just east of Bend Golf & Country Club with about 80 acres of land J.L. Ward Company owns nearby, at the northwest corner of Knott Road and 15th Street.
The proposal would still need to be approved by the school board.
In May, voters passed a $268.3 million capital construction bond that would pay for upgrades in the school district as well as a new elementary and a new high school. Because of population growth, Bend-La Pine Schools needs to add a high school, and specifically, one is needed in southeast Bend.
The school district was considering building the high school on the 50-acre plot, but the land swap would place the high school in the same general area while situating it close to a new park Bend Park & Recreation District plans to build, Alpenglow Community Park.
Brad Henry, the school district’s chief operations and financial officer, presented the proposal at a joint meeting of the Bend-La Pine School Board and Bend Park & Recreation Board, held at the school district’s administration offices downtown. Henry said the school district has been in talks with J.L. Ward Company for about two and a half years.
The swap wouldn’t be the first transaction between Bend-La Pine Schools and the Ward family, although the district has worked with different factions of the family for different pieces of land.
Coincidentally, Henry said, the school district bought the 50-acre lot it owns near Bend Golf & Country Club from the Ward family originally, around the year 2000. In addition, the 25-acre lot Jewell Elementary School was built on in 1974 also once belonged to the Wards.
Bend-La Pine Schools could build its new high school, expected to open as soon as fall 2021, on part of the 80-acre plot and still have room for a new middle school, which would be built further in the future.
Based on enrollment expectations, the school district doesn’t need a new middle school for about 10 years, Henry said.
Henry showed a map of the proposed arrangement to the two boards, emphasizing the specific layout may change.
The rough plan Henry showed Tuesday puts the future middle school site in between the yet-to-be-built Alpenglow Community Park and the future high school.
There are a number of benefits to placing a middle school next to a high school, Henry said, explaining schools can then share staff, such as music teachers; middle school students can easily get to the high school to take more challenging classes; and the area could be ideal for tournaments.
Because both schools are expected to have their own athletic fields, the area would have a large number of fields in one spot.
There are also several advantages to placing the schools next to a public park, Henry said, especially because Bend-La Pine and the park district work together closely. Bend Park & Rec runs a number of its programs in Bend-La Pine facilities and on Bend-La Pine fields — programs that are intended for the school district’s students.
Henry said getting to announce the proposal was exciting because it’s something the school district has been working on for quite some time.
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