By Kailey Fisicaro
REDMOND — Two outdated schools, Lynch Elementary and Obsidian Middle, would benefit the most from a bond Redmond School District may ask voters to approve.
Instead of a regular school board meeting at the district’s office Wednesday evening, Superintendent Mike McIntosh and principals from Lynch and Obsidian led board members on a tour of the two schools, describing how their buildings, built in 1965 and 1979 respectively, could benefit.
The tour provided a window into the conditions of two of the district’s facilities.
Board member Shawn Hartfield said if Lynch students were to visit Sage Elementary, the district’s newest K-5, they would see clear differences between the two.
“Even though they love their school and they love the people at their school, they can see right off the bat that when they go to the cafeteria at Sage, they don’t see all this stuff, this clutter, everything that has to be stored here for a reason,” Hartfield said, pointing to extra furniture and supplies piled in the school’s cafeteria because the building lacks storage.
“So that equity piece — it’s a big piece in a child’s self-esteem and self-worth in the community, because, ‘why am I not worth it, but those kids over there are?’” she said.
A bond could help pay for $90 million in deferred maintenance at facilities districtwide and include a complete rebuild of Lynch.
Redmond School District staff have yet to present a bond measure to the school board. The district is gauging community support. It conducted a survey in September, and plans to do a one around January.
The school district is trying to make the need for the bond clear. Schools in Redmond are not running out of room: The school district’s last bond, for $110 million, passed May 20, 2008, paid for Ridgeview High School and Sage Elementary to alleviate overcrowding.
Instead, the school bond could help pay for needed maintenance. But one statement the district previously made, that a bond would not help pay for new schools, should be qualified in one way.
The repairs that need to be made at Lynch Elementary are so great, it could make more financial sense to tear the school down and build a new one next door.
Estimates the district received show repairing Lynch would cost about $15 million while rebuilding next door would cost $20 million. Under the plan, construction would take place while classes continue at the existing Lynch Elementary. When the new building is ready, the district could tear the old one down.
But a new school for Lynch, and the bond, aren’t guaranteed.
School district staff insist Lynch Elementary is safe to inhabit, but the laundry list of repairs needed is lengthy. At an Oct. 25 school board meeting, McIntosh said the school was “built to a very low standard” and that the school’s gym, a later addition, was “a very shoddily done job.”
In addition to the badly needed repairs, Lynch’s design is outdated, said principal Rayna Nordstrom.
“You’ll notice the rooms are very much styled for lecture — and especially with kids in a high-poverty school — someone just talking to them, or at them, isn’t the best way that they learn,” she said.
New K-12 schools are often built with classroom spaces that can be set up for multiple purposes. New schools also tend to include open community spaces between classrooms.
At Lynch, where many classrooms lack windows and rely on fluorescent light, there are a number of jerry-rigged projects.
• In one part of the school where the district added a room, it built a wall around a light fixture to allow light in both rooms.
• Last winter, a few doors in the school wouldn’t open because of the pressure of the heavy snow load on the roof.
• One large corner of the school is blocked off with office dividers as a makeshift storage area since there’s no space elsewhere.
• In another portion of the school, a few classrooms open to the cafeteria where more stuff is stored, and where lunch takes place each day from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. If the noise during that time isn’t enough of a distraction, the school’s gym is near those classrooms as well. Wednesday night, kids’ squeals during a basketball practice could be heard clearly outside the gym in the school’s cafeteria, even with the doors closed.
McIntosh, who attended Lynch and was principal there from 1997 to 2005, said he probably holds as much sentimentality for the school as anyone. But trying to make so many fixes at the school might not make sense.
“When you get done, you still have an old school that’s been retrofitted,” McIntosh said.
Lynch and Obsidian are two prime examples of how a bond could help the school district because the projects they need “hit every spot of what a bond would cover,” McIntosh said.
A bond would pay for safety and security improvements, energy efficiency renovations, upgrades to protect investment in the district’s existing facilities, a remodel of spaces to better serve career and technical education classes and a rebuild of Lynch.
One wing at Lynch would remain if a bond supported a rebuild of the school. The 2008 bond paid for an area that holds a few classrooms and serves a few community programs, including Deschutes County Behavioral Health.
Like many districts, including Bend-La Pine Schools, Redmond would like to make school entrances — including those at Lynch and Obsidian — more secure, especially in light of shootings at schools in the last several years. McIntosh said better securing school entries isn’t the main point of the bond, but it’s a relevant concern.
At Obsidian, the main office is set so far back from the two main entrances, staffers have little visibility, and visitors can easily enter the school without checking in. The cameras are outdated to the point that only a “blob of someone or something” is visible on footage, said Obsidian’s principal, Tami Nakamura.
Fixing Obsidian’s entrance is a $2.5 million project, McIntosh said.
But entrances aren’t the only safety concern. Improvements to sidewalks, parking lots and roofs for snow loads could also be made with new bond money.
Like Lynch, Obsidian has several windowless classrooms with fluorescent lights, something McIntosh said research has shown can hinder learning.
One room used as a computer lab for testing has no windows, receives a lot of foot traffic because it’s connected to several classrooms and is plagued by ants every spring — so many that staff use vacuums to try to combat them. The burnt-orange carpet in that room and several others is original to the school, making it close to 40 years old.
At Lynch, it’s clear the school was built in a different era. Despite the outdated setting, Nordstrom insists her school is a happy and healthy community. It’s just in major need of physical improvements.
“I’m very proud of my staff, how they utilize this building,” Nordstrom said. “Our are kids under-served? No. Could they be better served? Yes.”
— Reporter: 541-383-0325, firstname.lastname@example.org