By Kailey Fisicaro

The Bulletin

Voters approved a record-setting Bend-La Pine school bond in Tuesday’s special district election, according to unofficial election results.

The $268.3 million general construction bond, which is more than twice as large as the district’s previous bond, will pay for a new elementary and high school plus more than 150 projects in facilities throughout the school district. The Bend-La Pine School Board voted to put the school bond before voters in the May election at its Jan. 12 meeting.

District staff had presented the need for two new schools to the board by pointing to the school district’s continued rapid growth. In the 2016-17 school year, Bend-La Pine received 500 new students instead of the predicted 350.

The political action committee behind the school bond, Central Oregonians for Responsible Education, put on a Yes for New Schools campaign, raising $16,800 in cash contributions in 2017.

And while there was no official opposition campaign to the school bond, Yes for New Schools faced some backlash, according to its PAC’s co-chair, Michele Emery. Between 60 and 80 Yes for New Schools campaign signs were stolen or trashed over the last few months, Emery said.

But Tuesday evening, watching results on the television screens at the Deschutes County administrative building downtown, Emery, her PAC co-chair Neil Bryant, school district staffers and some school board members shared in their glee at the school bond passing.

“I’m delighted,” Bryant said. “It was a sign from our community.”

Emery agreed: The school bond passing with a wide margin showed the community’s support of Bend-La Pine Schools, she said. Bend-La Pine School Board Chair Peggy Kinkade, also at the county building downtown Tuesday night, said she was pleased to see the bond pass with the margin it did when it was a much larger ask than ever before. The district’s last school bond in 2013 was for $96 million.

Bend-La Pine School Superintendent Shay Mikalson said he was thrilled with the support the school district received, which echoes the backing he sees from the community on a regular basis.

“I feel very thankful to our community; they support our schools on a daily basis in various ways, and this is just another piece of that evidence,” Mikalson said.

— Reporter: 541-383-0325,