Link to Owner Dr. Robert B. Pamplin Jr.



If North Clackamas School District voters pass another capital bond next year, the funds would be spent on building new schools east of Interstate 205, while major renovations would largely take place west of I-205.

That much became clear at a district-hosted forum earlier this month to gather input on various bond proposals, ranging between $300 million and $486 million.

Elementary schools in Milwaukie, View Acres, Riverside, Lewelling, Whitcomb and Sunnyside are in need of “major modernization,” according to officials, while the new elementary school would have to be built in the rapidly expanding Happy Valley area. Portland State University’s population estimates predict that Duncan Elementary in Happy Valley, for example, will be 122 students overenrolled by 2022, but local officials think PSU is making conservative estimates of Happy Valley growth.

PHOTO BY: RAYMOND RENDLEMAN - Restore Oregon is helping local preservationists save Milwaukie High School's main 1925 building, which features a beautiful Art Deco design but is in need of major renovations or replacement.NCSD has passed bonds three times previously, in 1991, 1998 and 2006. When the 2006 bond falls off the tax rolls in 2032, voters might see a tax decrease in about 15 years if they only renew the bond at $300 million. A $300 million bond would build a new elementary school and replace or remodel Milwaukie High School’s main building, in addition to a slew of smaller-ticket items.

This $300 million bond would finance currently unfunded maintenance (minus 11 percent); upgrade NCSD’s five facilities rated high or medium high risk during an earthquake; fund all school additions/expansions; and complete all athletic projects to meet Title 9 standards. Superintendent Matt Utterback said the $300 million would also address all the safety features recommended by the School Security Task Force.

“We want to be able to have our teachers to be able to go to their door and just lock it,” he said.

Movement begins tosave MHS building

LeRoy Landers, an architect from Portland who helped with the 2006 bond, is helping as a consultant in the current process.

“Some of the classrooms, because of size and physical conditions, are not optimal for learning,” Landers said, pointing out a photo of a classroom at MHS where a post blocks the view to the teacher for some students. He also showed photographs of MHS’s rusty boiler rooms, narrow hallways and windowless classrooms.

Unsurprisingly, more than a dozen attendees of an Oct. 6 forum at Clackamas High School voted unanimously for demolishing MHS and starting over with a new building. They were told that replacing MHS would assure long life for a new building that could be designed to the community’s exacting standards, while still honoring MHS’s current 1925 main building with a historically sensitive replacement along the lines of Ardenwald Elementary School.

While officials recognized a “pro” in saving one of the oldest buildings in Milwaukie, “cons” to renovation included “nothing is as cool as new,” and limitations to technology, use of space and natural light.

“It seems there’s a high likelihood the school district is very seriously considering replacing the old building, which is a very cool example of a 1920s Art Moderne public building,” said Jordan Jordan of Restore Oregon, a nonprofit dedicated to saving historic places. “Fortunately for those interested in seeing the old high school preserved, it is identified as a ‘significant resource’ by the city.”

MHS is eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places according to its listing in the Oregon Historic Sites Database. Milwaukie has an extra review process in place for proposed demolition or alteration of historic resources, including locally recognized, non-National Register properties. According to the city’s Historic Resources and Preservation web page: “Significant resources are subject to Planning Department review for most exterior alterations.”

When asked about the potential of a renovation of MHS, district officials pointed to Skanska USA Building Inc’s successful 2007-08 renovation of Bilquist Elementary School in Clackamas, funded with the 2006 bond. However, Bilquist’s renovation saved money over cost estimates for Bilquist’s potential replacement, and currently Landers has estimated similar $63.5 million costs for remodeling or replacing MHS. Beyond the Bilquist example, Utterback was “struggling coming up with other pro reasons for the remodel of MHS versus the replacement.”

“We are still 13 months from a possible election and six months from (school) board consideration, so we don’t have all the answers,” said district spokesman Joe Krumm. “We are really at the idea stage and we are asking our community to react to our ideas. We want to be careful to not have anything appear that we are making promises or heading in a certain direction.”

Voters seem to support tax increase

Current proposals show that the major thing that would be added if voters approve $380 million rather than $300 million is a fourth high school. If Rock Creek Middle School converted into a fourth high school and added 144,000 square feet of space, part of Clackamas High School would convert back to a middle school.

If the district had $415 million to work with, district officials proposed fully funding the transportation center and currently unfunded maintenance. A transportation center housed at Alder Creek Middle School is overflowing to the Alder Creek parking lot and a couple of other locations throughout the district.

A $486 million bond proposal would also fund NCSD’s fifth middle school, at $71 million in 2020 dollars. All current middle schools have more than 900 students, and the enrollment target is around 750 for NCSD middle schools. This bond package would result in an approximately 53 cent tax increase per $1,000 of assessed tax value, so about a $160 annual tax increase for the average homeowner.

Geraldine Johnson, whose daughter is a senior at CHS, said she would like all voters to support the bond, no matter what its size.

NCSD Parent Leadership Alliance member Huy Nguyen, whose son is a 16-year-old CHS junior, said that improving buildings would only have a real effect for students if the Oregon Legislature appropriates a greater percentage of its budget to education. Local capital bond funding cannot be used for teachers.

“It’s a positive thing if we can reduce class sizes, and I think a lot of parents are concerned about that,” Nguyen said.

Fifty-six percent of voters recently polled by the district would support a tax increase, and 70 percent would support maintaining taxes where they are.

“It’s great news to be a year out and have 70 percent support,” Utterback said. “But we’ll get to the promises when we get to January, February and March, when we finalize the bond package.”

The district continues its series of community forums at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 21, at Rock Creek Middle School. Additional forums are scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 28, at Rowe Middle School, and at 6:30 p.m. on Nov. 18 at Alder Creek Middle School. An online survey is available at Comments also can be emailed to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Utterback will include input from the community in a bond recommendation to the school board early next year.

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