Residents in Madras, Warm Springs and Metolius will vote on a $24 million school bond from Jefferson County School District later this year.
Although a list of projects has not been set, the bond, which won’t raise property taxes, could pay for new roofs, better lighting and additional classrooms at the Warm Springs K-8 Academy.
The Jefferson County School Board unanimously approved putting this bond on the Nov. 2 ballot at a meeting Monday night.
“We’re just trying to make sure we’re looking ahead to make sure we’re doing these upgrades now, so down the road we don’t have to do more,” Laurie Danzuka, chair of the school board, told The Bulletin.
However, the specific schools that will receive upgrades — and what specific upgrades those schools would get — won’t be determined until locals are surveyed in the spring, according to Martha Bewley, chief financial officer of the school district.
“We really need to go out to our community and seek their input as we move forward,” she told The Bulletin.
A long-range facility plan, provided by the school district, recommended repairs to many school roofs across the district. Many schools also need their heating and cooling systems replaced, and other fixes like new ceiling tiles, more accessible doors, better outdoor lighting and more.
All but two major schools in the district — Warm Springs K-8 Academy and Jefferson County Middle School, built in 2014 and 1995, respectively — were built more than 55 years ago, although most received a remodel in the 2000s. The two oldest buildings are the alternative school, Bridges High School, and Madras Elementary — both built in 1938. The latter hasn’t received a remodel since 1951, according to the district.
Even the Warm Springs K-8 Academy, built just seven years ago, needs new classrooms due to rising enrollment, according to the long-range plan.
However, state enrollment data shows that the K-8 has actually shrunk in student population for three straight school years, peaking in the 2017-18 school year with 664 students. This year, 585 students attend the school, but it should be noted enrollment has fallen in public schools statewide due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
If passed, the bond will not raise property taxes for residents in the school district’s attendance area. This is partly because the school district refinanced its 2012 bond — which paid for Madras High School’s performing arts building and partly funded the Warm Springs K-8 Academy — saving taxpayers millions, Bewley said.
Furthermore, debt from an older school bond will be retiring right as the possible new bond would take effect, she said.
This is the exact same strategy that Redmond School District used last November, and its no-new-taxes bond comfortably passed.
However, Bewley shied away from making any predictions about whether Jefferson County’s school bond would find equal success.
“Every community is different,” she said.
The school district is in the midst of forming a committee — comprised of school board members, an architect, school staff and community members — to determine which remodel projects at which schools will be prioritized, said Bewley. This committee will likely start surveying locals in the spring, she said.
In a December 2020 survey sent to families, community members and school staff, with 69 responses, 77% said they’d support a bond that would fund roof repairs districtwide, according to district data. Sixty-five percent said they’d support a bond that would fund HVAC, plumbing and lighting upgrades.
However, only 46% said they’d support improvements at Bridges High School, and 47% said they’d vote for a bond that would build new classrooms at the Warm Springs K-8 Academy. More than 20% of respondents answered “maybe” to both of those questions.
Bewley said it will be important to do a more comprehensive survey later this year.
“Our community is a lot larger than 69 (respondents),” she said.