If ever there was a moment when voters in the Centennial School District needed to band together — but from a safe, hypothetical distance — this is that moment.
Following up on a defeated bond measure in 2016, this small school district went back to the drawing board to craft a no frills $65 million measure, timing the vote for the uncluttered May 2020 ballot and what it thought would be the best time to ask voters for approval. Who would have guessed, even a month ago, that the coronavirus would turn the world upside down?
Having already passed the point of removing the bond from the ballot, volunteers are continuing the perilous task of spreading the word to district voters, encouraging them to pass this bond at a time when people are losing their jobs and fretting over their ability to pay rent and other bills.
We're sensitive to the financial mayhem caused by the coronavirus outbreak, and can only ask that each individual voter weigh the risk vs. reward of passing this measure.
As surely as the COVID-19 crisis will come to an end and the economy will rebound, schools will also eventually reopen. At that time, Centennial's students will return to the same overcrowded classrooms in the district's aging buildings, which average 55 years old.
Most of the $65 million in bond funds, about $37.5 million, will be used to repair — not replace — schools. Some buildings need new roofs and plumbing and electrical systems. Boilers, used to heat the schools, have outlived their usefulness. Even finding parts to repair these ancient dinosaurs is becoming difficult, if not impossible.
The bond will facilitate the district's plans to move sixth graders to middle school from elementary school.
The district plans to convert 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 because the middle school students would spend three years in middle school instead of the current two.
Gymnasiums will be added at Meadows, Patrick Lynch, Powell Butte and Parklane elementary schools, where multipurpose rooms are often over scheduled with lunches and demand for indoor physical education classes.
And about $2.8 million of the bond will be used to make critically necessary safety and security upgrades at all of the district schools.
The good news for district patrons is that property owners won't see an increase on tax statements when this bond passes. This bond is timed to follow, at no change in price, an earlier bond that's about to sunset.
As an added bonus, Centennial will receive a $7.5 million matching grant from the state, allowing funds provided by the district's taxpayers to stretch even farther.
It's also a good time to remind voters that the state does not pay for school repairs and remodeling. The state's contributions pay for things like teachers and administration salaries. But it's up to the taxpayers in school districts across the state to ensure they provide safe and modern learning environments for kids between kindergarten through high school graduation.
At this point, the fate of this measure is in the hands of the district's voters. There is no denying that this request comes at a bad time. But we hope the district's taxpayers are able to see down the road to better days, when the cost of the bond won't seem like such a bitter pill.
The Centennial School District listened to patrons and responded by reducing this bond to a sensible, bare-bones request for funding. We hope the taxpayers of the district return the favor by courageously investing in the future of these schools, by voting "yes" on Measure 26-208.
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