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Election climate dramatically changed for the $65 million bond to repair aging schools

COURTESY PHOTO: CENTENNIAL SCHOOL DISTRICT - The $65 million Centennial School District facilities bond on the May 19 ballot would not raise taxes for homeowners.

Centennial School District supporters are pushing ahead on the $65 million facilities bond that is on the May 19 ballot, despite challenges that have popped up caused by the spread of the novel coronavirus and restrictions in place to stop it.

"We've got 6,000 postcards and we've started phone banking this week," said Shar Giard, a local Realtor who heads up the committee supporting the bond.

She's optimistic, despite the fact that it is unlikely supporters will be able to go door-to-door explaining the bond because of social distancing restrictions imposed due to the coronavirus.

In addition, many voters' economic prospects have dimmed as businesses have closed down and laid off employees or dramatically reduced their hours.

"I hope and pray we get this thing passed," Giard said.

The bond would not cause an increase in taxes, according to "Yes for Centennial Kids," the committee supporting the bond.

Unlike nearby districts that launched ambitious building plans, Centennial is not planning any new schools.

Most of the $65 million in Centennial bond funds, about $37.5 million, would be used to repair Centennial's aging schools. Some buildings need new roofs and plumbing and electrical systems would be repaired and upgraded. The average age of Centennial's school buildings is 55 years old.

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

The bond 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 district 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 instead of the current two. The change would also better balance enrollment across the district.

The bond would 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 with lunches and demand for indoor physical education classes.

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

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

As of March 24, eight Oregonians had died as a result of the COVID-19 disease. Gov. Kate Brown ordered the closure of many businesses and agencies across the state and shuttered schools for about six weeks until April 28.

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