Link to Owner Dr. Robert B. Pamplin Jr.



The plan includes a new building for Cornelius Elementary School. Voters have to approve it first, though.

PMG PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - A screen gives students a view of Foret Grove High School culinary arts teacher Andrea Loeffler's cutting board.The Forest Grove School District is planning a November bond election to pay for major improvements in classrooms and on campuses.

Superintendent David Parker and members of a bond development committee recommended to the school board Monday June 14, that it place a $145 million bond package on the November ballot.

That measure would include $62 million for a new Cornelius Elementary building and $16 million to build a new alternative school campus.

Voters last approved a capital improvement bond for the Forest Grove School District in 2010 for $65 million. Currently, the school bond levy rate is $2.15 per $1,000 of assessed home value, which officials say is the lowest the rate has been since 2001.

To raise the $145 million, the school district would increase the levy rate to $4.17 per $1,000 for 10 years before dropping down to around $3.17.

If the rate increases from $2.15 to $4.17, a home with an assessed value of $300,000 would pay an additional $600 in property taxes.

In May, Forest Grove city voters approved a 35-cent increase in property taxes to pay for police, the fire department, parks and library services. The city makes up the largest share of the Forest Grove School District's residents, although the district also includes most of neighboring Cornelius and some rural areas surrounding the two cities.

Through consulting firm Wright Public Affairs, the Forest Grove School District conducted a survey by phone in April of 400 likely voters with a 4.9-percentage-point margin for error.

According to the survey, earthquake-resistant buildings, updated fire safety, classroom space to expand pre-kindergarten, security cameras, expanded physical education space and modernized career-technical training labs and equipment all polled at 63% favorability or better.

At 57% favorability, upgrading the track and field at Neil Armstrong Middle School was the least popular proposal.

"I want to point out that there is nothing here that is a bad item that the bond development committee had to throw out, there was nothing that was fatal," Jeremy Wright, owner of Wright Public Affairs, told the board.

The question is how much Forest Grovers and Cornelians are willing to pay for it.

"Let's not kid ourselves, that's going to be our challenge," Wright said in reference to the increase.

Ilean Clute, finance and operations director for the school district, told the school board that Cornelius Elementary has a capacity of 299 students in permanent classrooms. Currently, the school uses portables to accommodate 355 students, but by 2033-34, the school's enrollment is expected to hit 388. A new housing development in Cornelius - Laurel Woods - includes over 900 homes, and so far, around 650 are complete. City Manager Rob Drake said the school district boundary splits the neighborhood, with around 60% of homes zoned for Hillsboro School District and 40% zoned for Forest Grove.

The proposed new building could accommodate 500 students.

"The way that will be done is still up for planning. There is an option being kicked around on the architectural side there could be a way to use the cafeteria and gym in some way, so we're not knocking down something that is still usable. Whether that's for community use or school itself, we're still figuring that out," spokesperson David Warner said. "It will be built on-site while kids still go to school, and when it is completed … students will flip-flop and we will tear the old building down."

Currently, the district's alternative school houses 67 students and three full-time staff on the second floor of a repurposed building on Taylor Way.

Parker has hired a new principal for the school for next school year, as he hopes to expand the program offering alternative paths to diplomas for students who work, raise families, struggle in a traditional classroom environment and face other challenges.

Clute also told the board the school district has $44.9 million in "deferred maintenance needs", including $11 million in repairs at Neil Armstrong Middle School. The proposed bond package would set aside $28.3 million to address a portion of those needs.

The bond also includes $15 million for improvements at facilities constructed before 2000 — Echo Shaw Elementary School, Harvey Clarke Elementary School, Dilley Elementary School, Neil Armstrong Middle School and parts of Forest Grove High School — and the district is applying for a state grants that would provide $6.7 million in matching funds.

The district has until Aug. 16 to submit the measure to the county elections office for the Nov. 8 election.

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