Estacada School District leaders hope a $22.9 million general obligation bond on the November ballot weighs both necessary school building upgrades and the community's financial needs.
"We had a lot of feedback from our community about what the right price point was and what our community could afford," Estacada School District Communications Director Maggie Kelly said during a virtual presentation on Sept. 30. "At the same time, we wanted to balance that with the need to provide schools that our students can be proud to learn in, our staff can be proud to teach in and our community can be proud to represent."
If Measure 3-565 is approved by voters, the Estacada School District will receive a $4 million grant from the Oregon School Capital Improvement match program.
If approved, the bond will be paid back over 16 years and is estimated to cost taxpayers approximately 95 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value, which is $199 per year for the median residential assessed value of $215,756. The district would establish a citizen oversight committee to ensure proceeds are properly used.
The funds can only be used for capital improvements and can't be spent on day-to-day operations or staff salaries.
Previously, Estacada School District voters said no to a $55.1 million general obligation bond in the November 2016 election.
At the beginning of this year, the Estacada School Board voted to put the bond on the May ballot but opted to move the question to the November election because of the economic impact of COVID-19.
School district leaders began seeking community input about a potential bond last September, when a committee with school staff, school board members and community members was formed. The district also hosted multiple town hall meetings on the subject.
Projects funded by the bond would focus on technological and safety upgrades at River Mill Elementary School, Clackamas River Elementary School, Estacada Middle School and Estacada High School.
If approved, funds from the bond will support a variety of projects at Estacada schools, including installing and upgrading security camera systems; providing air quality improvements through filtration, HVAC controls and classroom air conditioning; ADA improvements; electrical system improvements; roofing and plumbing projects; improved classroom lighting and controls; creating information technology infrastructure; parking lot repaving; cafeteria renovations; and court, stadium and field improvements. Estacada High School's office would be moved to the front of the building, and classrooms would be added at one or both of the district's elementary schools.
One project funded by the bond would equip Estacada Middle School, River Mill Elementary School and Clackamas River Elementary School with keycard access — a safety measure that is already present at Estacada High School.
"When we have to enter a lockdown, we have to manually lock all doors," Kelly said during the Sept. 30 presentation, estimating that this takes at least five minutes. "This system would allow us to do this at the push of a button."
She also noted the value of having upgraded air filtration in schools.
"In times of COVID-19 and local wildfires, having updated air filtration is the difference between opening our doors and not opening our doors," she said.
The bond would also equip each classroom with additional electrical outlets, since most classrooms only have between two and three.
"Modern learning just requires more electrical capacity," she said. "A student might need the option to learn from anywhere, and we've built a distance learning program that allows them to do that. We just need our buildings and our technology to get up to speed with what we have."
Kelly noted that the Clackamas County wildfires highlighted the importance of preserving school facilities.
"We were able to open our facilities to serve our community during the wildfires before we were at a level three, and even though that was a terrible situation it was an awesome opportunity for our facilities to serve the community," she said. "We want to continue to do that, so one thing this bond really focuses on is preserving the longevity of our buildings because when we have crises like this it becomes even more apparent that our schools need to have the ability to serve our community and just be safe facilities for our students to learn in."
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