The city of Bend and Bend-La Pine Schools will have to work together to create space for more students in a rapidly growing and urbanizing city, representatives from the Bend City Council and the school board agreed Tuesday.
The most pressing issue of collaboration for the two entities is a new elementary school planned on land that the city needs to be ready to annex in time for classes to start in fall 2019. But the city and school district will have to work on placing future schools as well, Bend Long-Range Planning Manager Brian Rankin said during a combined meeting Tuesday.
“We’re kind of in this together,” Rankin said. “We’re going to have to work through how Bend is going to grow and how the school district is going to provide its amenities.”
Both public entities will need to build for a Bend population that’s projected to reach 109,000 by 2025 and 120,000 by 2030, Bend Assistant City Manager Jon Skidmore said.
“That stresses our infrastructure,” he said. “That stresses the schools’ infrastructure.”
About 1,140 of the 2,380 acres Bend will be allowed to annex during the coming years can be used for schools, parks or houses. The rest is dedicated to businesses, public facilities and roads.
A still unnamed elementary school at the intersection of O.B. Riley and Cooley roads will take up 10-12 acres of that. Bend-La Pine Schools plans to purchase the land at about $100,000 an acre and hopes to start construction in May.
Funding for the new school, which the district hopes to open in time for the 2019-20 school year, will come from a record $268.3 million school bond voters overwhelmingly approved in May. The new elementary school will closely resemble Silver Rail Elementary School, with 24 classrooms, a gym, a library, a special room for science, technology, engineering arts and math and a transparent entryway distributed through two stories.
Bend families need the new school to serve north Bend, but there wasn’t any good space for it inside existing city limits, said Brad Henry, the district’s chief operations and financial officer.
“As we were looking at that northwest, northeast area, there’s just not a lot that meets our needs in that area,” Henry said.
The school district needed the city to adopt its annexation policy, which it did at its most recent meeting after delaying it over disagreements on water rights, before any work can be done on the new school. The school site also isn’t currently connected to the city’s sewer, something Bend Mayor Casey Roats said he saw as a wake-up call that the city needs to get ahead of growth instead of reacting to it.
Roats said he wanted both the city and the school district to work through any disagreements.
“The school district has an incredibly important role in the community to play, as does the city,” Roats said. “They need to dovetail and work together, never at odds.”
One aspect of this planning is figuring out how to place new schools while preserving the city’s vision of walkable commercial areas. Bend residents want to be near parks and schools but also want to be able to walk to stores and restaurants, Rankin said.
The city predicts that 62 percent of homes will be within half a mile of schools, 86 percent will be within half a mile of commercial areas and 99 percent will be within half a mile of a park.
“It’s walkable, it’s bikeable or it’s a short drive,” Rankin said. “It’s not just about walking. It’s about livability.”
A new high school, expected to open in 2021, is planned near Knott Road and 15th Street, an area where the city expects to provide commercial services for neighboring homes. Mayor Pro Tem Sally Russell said she still hoped to see businesses there near the school.
“Obviously we’re planning a high school, but we’re also planning a whole city,” she said.
Bend-La Pine Schools Chairman Andy High said he expected the school could make the area more appealing for some businesses.
“If you know that you’re going to have 1,500 kids who need to eat lunch from noon to 1, you might be willing to take that risk and open ‘Eric’s Fast Food’ or whatever,” he said.
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