$680 million bond could fund new schools, technology and upgrades

by: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - David Etchart, Beaverton School District's administrator for facilities development, answers questions about the 2014 Future Bond measure.When it comes to a $680 million bond measure to fund new schools, building renovations and new technology for the Beaverton School District, failure is not an option.

That’s was a key theme expressed during an open house presentation for district parents, employees and concerned citizens on Tuesday evening at Beaverton High School.

“We are counting on the bond to pass,” said Dick Steinbrugge, the district’s executive director for facilities. “We’re pretty optimistic about that. Our community has historically been supportive of bond measure issues.”

If it doesn’t, the emphasis would then be placed on crucial repairs and upgrades covered by the district’s general fund.

“Some of these are going to have to happen anyway,” he said. “We can’t let our roofs leak ... With a lot of hard work and support from the community, we think this bond measure will pass.”

The sparse, but engaged audience of about 35 parents, teachers, principals and school staff that turned out for the

second of two open house sessions on the bond measure,

expressed general support for the measure — which will appear on the May 2014 ballot — if mixed feelings on specific priorities.

The preliminary list of nearly 30 bond-funded projects includes a new high school in the proposed South Cooper Mountain development area, a new elementary school in the North Bethany area and rebuilding of Vose, William Walker and Hazeldale elementary schools as well as the Arts and Communication Magnet Academy. The bond committee plans to finalize the list at its meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 11, at 6 p.m. in the district’s Administration Center, 16550 S.W. Merlo Road.

“Nothing is absolutely on or off the table at this point," Steinbrugge said.

Retiring older bond measure debts frees up the approximately $680 million, which could be approved in one or possibly two bond cycles of around $340 million each, noted project administrator David Etchart. With an expected influx of 6,000 additional students in the district by 2025, he emphasized the need for a new high school to eliminate some of the 209 portable classrooms in the TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Dena Gentry expresses her concerns to Dick Steinbrugge, an executive administrator with Beaverton School District, about the future plans to Springville K-8 School during a community open house at Beaverton High School.

“We need the high school (built) as quickly as possible,” he said.

The formal presentation was kept relatively short to allow attendees to peruse informational displays set up in the cafeteria and discuss issues with district officials one-on-one.

Megan Rutherford, a North Bethany resident with a second-grader at Springville Elementary School, said classroom size is a major concern.

“I want my school to not be so crowded,” she said. “I don’t want my kid in a class of 30 kids, and I don’t want to look forward to her being in a high school classroom with 45 kids.”

While wondering if greater foresight could’ve avoided today’s funding problems, she’s willing to support the bond measure if it addresses overcrowding and a new school in North Bethany.

“It kind of sounds like whoever makes the most noise is who they’re going to consider,” she said. “I hope more North Bethany residents speak up. Sometimes I feel like there’s few of us speaking up.”

Another Springville Elementary School mother, Jennifer Arend, made note of $250,000 the Washington County Board of Commissioners just approved to create a matching fund pool with the federal government through the county’s Gain Share program. The program waives property taxes to bring in new businesses.

“If (the district) is not going to work with the county (on funding), then what are we doing?” she asked. “It doesn’t make any sense.”

Connie Lightner, who has children at McKay Elementary School and the International School of Beaverton, questions bond spending proposals on items such as artificial turf on Aloha and Sunset high schools’ athletic fields to the tune of $1 million per field.

“Even with a 10-year guarantee, when you factor in that much for artificial turf, that’s a lot of money when you have kids in portables and not enough computers,” she said, noting she’s asked the district for a cost comparison between artificial and natural turf. “I’m not convinced that artificial turf is cost effective overall.”

District Superintendent Jeff Rose said he’s encouraged by what he’s heard from parents, faculty and staff that the bond measure would be both successful and effective. He also emphasized that even $680 million only goes so far in a rapidly growing district.

“We can do a tremendous amount over the whole district,” he said, “but we still can’t fund everything we need to do with our buildings. We’ll have to make decisions about certain things above the line, and some that will fall below.

“That will be the anxiety the community faces in the next few weeks.”by: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Molly Anderson, who is an ESL teacher at William Walker Elementary School, looks at plans for her neighborhood schoo,l which would be rebuilt in the 2014 Future Bond measure.

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