PRINEVILLE — An outdated, leaky roof at Crook County Middle School needs to be fixed, and the school’s 65-year-old boiler has district administrators concerned, but they don’t want the public to pay anything extra to accomplish those tasks. Instead of asking voters to support a bond, their hope is to fund the repairs by saving a little money each year from the general fund.
“What we’re trying to do is avoid a bond. … It’s going to have to be done out of the general fund; that’s our goal,” said Crook County School Board member Doug Smith, who’s leading a long-term facilities committee looking at potential needs throughout the district. “That’s what every school board should be striving for, and what’s what we’re trying to do.”
The middle school’s roof and boiler are just two things the facilities committee is reviewing throughout Crook County School District in order to determine whether existing buildings need upgrades or extra classrooms for vocational classes, or if a new school is needed for capacity reasons.
Crook County Middle School, one of the district’s oldest buildings and originally its high school, was built in 1954, with extra wings and a gym added in 1972.
Smith said the 1954 sections of roof were replaced as part of the district’s $33.5 million bond in 2013, but now an additional $1.6 million is needed to fix the portions of the roof built in 1972 because it has developed a few leaks. According to Kurt Sloper, the middle school’s principal, none of the leaks are in classrooms or anywhere visible to students, but he’d like to see the problem fixed before it gets worse.
“What we don’t want to have happen is, you go from six leaks to 20,” he said.
The school’s boiler dates back to 1952, and may also need to be replaced soon, according to Smith. He said he hopes to keep replacing individual parts on the boiler until parts are no longer manufactured for an appliance of that age — similar to maintaining an old car. There hasn’t been a recent cost estimate to replace the boiler, said Smith, who added that the school’s entire water system might have to be upgraded for a new boiler, which would bump up the cost.
Other issues associated with the middle school’s age were fixed with about $2 million worth of improvements paid for out of the 2013 bond, including the removal of asbestos from hallway tile floors, putting new flooring in one of the school’s gyms and giving the building a cosmetic upgrade with new doors, a covered entryway and freshly-painted hallways.
Smith said his committee is looking into roofs throughout the district that could use repairs.
Crooked River Elementary is one of the two other buildings being inspected — the 2013 bond paid for some roof work at the school, which was built in the early 1960s, but the district wants to review it. The two-building Pioneer Complex, built in the late 1920s, is also having its roofs inspected. The committee will know which roofs need fixing by the end of March, Smith said.
Board chair Scott Cooper agreed with Smith’s plan to avoid a bond.
“I know Crook County, and I know you don’t go out until you have a very well-formulated plan, and even then, you struggle to get money because they’re very conservative voters,” he said.
The facilities committee is also looking into potentially adding more career and technical education classes at Crook County High School. The school already has culinary and art programs, welding, engine repair, agriculture, manufacturing and coding classes, and Smith said his committee is currently reaching out to students and employers in Crook County see what other options should be added.
The final aspect the committee is observing is classroom capacity, particularly in Prineville’s two elementary schools. This year, Barnes Butte has 626 students, and Crooked River has 594 students. Both schools are designed to hold about 650 students, according to Smith.
Superintendent Sara Johnson said a potential third major elementary is a possibility in the future.
The district runs two small rural K-8 schools in Paulina and Brothers, which serve 20 students or less, and owns Powell Butte Community Charter School’s building
“Even to grow one classroom, we’re going to be full,” she said. “We would have to do portables. It’s right on the edge.”
According to U.S. Census data, Prineville’s population under the age of 14 has fallen from 1,979 in 2010 to 1,592 in 2017.
Smith said he was hesitant to ask for another bond, but said that if capacity or the district’s older facilities become a legitimate issue, Crook County would vote for a tax increase.
“If our enrollment increases to the point where we need a bond, then I don’t have any problems with feeling the people of Crook County will support it,” he said. “(But) it’s the job of the board to be frugal and wise enough with the funds to make sure we can try to avoid that.”
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