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Funds will repair aging schools, add gyms to 4 schools and convert Oliver back to middle school

COURTESY PHOTO: CENTENNIAL SCHOOL DISTRICT - Centennial School District hopes voters will give a thumbs up to a $65 million bond they are readying for the May 2020 ballot. The Centennial School Board voted unanimously Wednesday night to put a $65 million bond on the May 2020 ballot to upgrade school buildings.

"Our students deserve this just as much students in our neighboring districts," Superintendent Paul Coakley said, after the board vote on Wednesday, Jan. 22. He was referring to the fact that both the Reynolds and Gresham-Barlow school districts passed bonds recently and launched big building programs.

As soon as the vote was taken, the standing room only audience broke out into cheers and the board took a break so bond supporters could serve sheet cake and sparkling cider.

The bond will not raise taxes for home and business owners, because Centennial has a bond expiring.

If voters approve the bond in May, Centennial will get a $7.5 million matching grant from the state.

But unlike neighboring districts that passed much larger bonds, Centennial is not planning any new buildings. Most of the bond funds, about $37.5 million, will be used to repair Centennial's aging schools. Some buildings need new roofs and unsafe carpeting needs to be replaced. Plumbing and electrical systems would be repaired and upgraded.

"Fifty-five years old is the average age of our facilities," Coakley said.

The bond also would facilitate the district's plans to move sixth graders to middle school from elementary school.

The district plans to change Oliver Elementary School back to a middle school at a cost of about $8 million.

A facilities report said moving the sixth graders would better align curriculum and improve the ability to build relationships with students since the middle school students would spend three years in middle school. The change would also better balance enrollment across the district.

The bond would also pay to add gyms to four elementary schools that do not have them. Meadows, Patrick Lynch, Powell Butte and Parklane elementary schools don't have gyms and their multipurpose rooms are often over scheduled, officials said.

About $2.8 million of the bond will be used to make safety and security upgrades at all of the district schools.

Coakley said the Gresham Area Chamber of Commerce had already voted to support and endorse the bond.

Voters turned down Centennial in 2016 on a $85 million bond to build a new middle school, add five multipurpose rooms to elementary schools and repair and upgrade buildings. The last time Centennial passed a bond was in 2004.

Centennial board member Rhonda Etherly said "this bond is long overdue for not only our children, but our staff and community."

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