Preliminary planning proceeds for the Wilson HIgh School of the future
The local citizens who volunteered to put together ideas about how a Wilson High School campus should look for the next 50 to 100 years reached a consensus that a new school should be built and the Wilson Pool should be kept in place.
But their vision will only come into play if the Portland School Board puts a bond measure before voters that would cover the cost of such a project. Of course, the voters would then have to approve that measure, which might appear in November 2020, 2021 or 2022.
At a forum Thursday evening, December 12, in the Wilson cafeteria, more than a hundred people turned out to hear about the planning work of the Conceptual Master Planning Committee. Former Wilson principal Sue Brent, now working with Portland Public Schools to plan this project, told the crowd, "There's a lot that needs to be done," to the school, which opened in 1956. But school board member Andrew Scott, a 1991 graduate of Wilson, cautioned, "It could be years before we break ground."
With that in mind, here are FIVE TAKEAWAYS ON THE POSSIBLE FUTURE FOR WILSON HIGH SCHOOL.
NO BUSING. NO PORTABLE CLASSROOMS.
The new principal at Wilson, Filip Hristic, said he favors keeping students in the current school building while a new one is built on the site at 1151 SW Vermont Street. If we do that,"All the money from a bond measure goes into a new school building. No money for busing or portables. Students will continue to go to this school," he told the crowd. Hristic came to Wilson in July 2019 from Roosevelt High School in North Portland, where students were able to stay on campus during a four-year construction project. "We need to make sure our students stay here. Keeping the pool and keeping the kids on site are important," he said.
WHAT ABOUT THE WILSON POOL?
Though it's joined at the hip with Wilson High School and even shares the same locker rooms, the Wilson Pool is run by Portland, Parks and Recreation. While there is strong support for keeping the pool, its fate ultimately will be up to PP&R, which is currently reviewing the "financial sustainability" of its operations. Translation: Determining what programs and facilities can PP&R afford to keep open.
VOTERS COULD BE ASKED TO PAY FOR A WILSON REBUILD NEXT NOVEMBER. OR NOT.
It's up to members of the Portland school board whether a bond measure to fund major improvements at Wilson, Cleveland and Jefferson high schools will appear on the November 2020 ballot. There is no current estimate of how large that bond measure would be. Nor is there a date for making that decision and the deadline for putting a measure on the November ballot isn't until August 16 of 2020. In 2012 voters approved funding for major construction at Franklin, Roosevelt and Grant high schools. In 2017, funding was approved for Benson, Madison and Lincoln high schools. Board member Scott said the school board could wait and opt to put the measure to voters in November of 2021 or 2022. He emphasized that property taxes would not be increased if such a bond passes, but that they wouldn't decrease either since the tax level from the earlier bond measure approvals would carry over.
PAST AND PRESENT WILSON PRINCIPALS ARE KEY PLAYERS.
Project Manager Sue Brent was principal at Wilson in 2007 when she showed then-superintendent Vickie Phillips the condition of the Wilson cafeteria. "There was food on the roof, no one wanted to eat in here," she said. Phillips used left-over bond money to improve conditions. Ten years later Brent had "retired" from Wilson and was working alongside Hristic on the Roosevelt reconstruction. "Roosevelt was a real gift for kids," she said of the improvements to that campus. Hristic spoke of those same improvements when he said he had been enjoying a band concert at Wilson, "and I thought 'That would be even more amazing at the theater we built at Roosevelt'." He also spoke of various things students are doing at Wilson and said, "What an inadequate facility to support these activities."
FIRST PASS THE BOND
There were questions about what a "new" Wilson campus would include; how security measures would be incorporated (Wilson is still waiting for security cameras with proceeds from a previous bond); and what measures are being taken to accommodate climate change concerns. Those attending seemed in agreement with this comment, "Those are conversations for after the bond passes. We need to make sure we get on the 2020 ballot. I don't want to wait."
An open house for the project will be held at Wilson in January.
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