School leaders are making progress in the construction of a new elementary school and high school in Bend.

A groundbreaking ceremony was held Monday at the elementary school site near OB Riley and Cooley roads, while design plans continue for the new high school at the corner of NE 15th Street and Knott Road.

The two new schools are the result of a $268.3 million Bend-La Pine Schools construction bond approved by voters in May 2017. The funds will also cover 150 safety, maintenance and classroom addition projects at other schools in the district.

All the projects are meant to address the school district’s continued growth in enrollment each year. Between 2000 and 2016, enrollment grew by more than 5,000 students, or about 300 new students each school year.

Due to the growth, more than half of the district’s elementary schools and all of the district’s high schools in Bend are near or over capacity, according to the school district.

Mike Tiller, director of facilities at Bend-La Pine Schools, said the district identified areas in Bend for the elementary school and high school that could help spread enrollment more evenly over the city. That effort was highlighted this week during the elementary school groundbreaking.

“We are experiencing growth all over town,” Tiller said. “We were able to find a property where this elementary school could be more centrally located to help balance the enrollment.”

The new, 600-student elementary school is scheduled to open in the fall of 2019. The school will be more than 70,000 square feet and feature a two-story design with 24 classrooms, an open commons and cafeteria area and a gym. The architectural designs are being modeled after Bend’s Silver Rail Elementary School, which opened in 2015.

Alandra Johnson, spokeswoman for Bend-La Pine Schools, said architects designing the two new schools met with staff and students to gather input about how they use the space in their schools.

“These designs really come out of the end users,” Johnson said.

The initial design work, which incorporates feedback from staff and students, is complete for the new high school in southeast Bend. Construction on the 245,000-square-foot high school is scheduled to start in spring 2019 and the school will open by the fall of 2021, according to the school district.

Early design plans include a large commons area that stretches the full length of the building. The design also shows open-air spaces for students to meet and study between classes.

“There is a lot of collaboration spaces programmed into this building,” Tiller said.

Tiller said the school district had an internal goal to open the new high school a year early, by 2020. But the complexity of planning such a large facility has left the school district to follow its original timetable of 2021.

“It couldn’t be condensed by 12 months,” Tiller said.

— Reporter: 541-617-7820, kspurr@bendbulletin.com

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