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School district plans to more clearly define bond before putting it out to voters

PMG PHOTO: NICOLE THILL-PACHECO - The St. Helens School District board of directors voted unanimously Wednesday, Aug. 28, to withdraw a proposed bond measure from the November ballot. District officials felt voters were not prepared to answer the question of whether or not to approve a $65 million bond to renovate and repair the high school. The St. Helens School District will no longer pursue a ballot measure in November asking voters to pass a $65 million bond to fully renovate and remodel the St. Helens High School building.

The school board voted unanimously Wednesday, Aug. 28 to withdraw the measure from the November ballot, which the board approved just two weeks prior.

During the board meeting, Superintendent Scot Stockwell noted that postponing the ballot measure would be in the district's best interest to ensure it had time to fully answer questions from the public before going out for a vote.

Stockwell said that while the district began numerous outreach efforts, including passing out fliers, hosting a booth at the county fair, and holding face to face conversations, many people raised concerns about the specifics of what a bond could do.

"In an effort to be responsive, I think it's prudent — I don't think, I know it's prudent — that we continue to visit and listen to our community and take in input as far as what they want to see in a completely renovated high school and shoot for the May 2020 ballot," Stockwell said.

The school board voted earlier this month to put the measure out on the November ballot, but the board has been discussing the topic for many months and had worked with a consultant and committee of stakeholders to determine what areas of the high school needed improvement, and had even created a series of proposed designs for renovations to the building.

Many school board members and members of the public acknowledged the need

for repairs at the aging high school, but board mem-

bers Bill Amos and Kellie Smith noted that community members wanted more specific details before being presented with the bond question.

"There are certain levels of support you want to have," Amos said, referring to asking voters to pass a construction bond. "And there's a whole lot of people who just aren't ready to decide, and there's not enough time to decide between now and November."

After collecting feedback, district officials noted that many members of the public showed support for a bond, but many questioned "exactly what the bond would bring to our school community and how it would improve student learning," a press release from the district stated, in part.

A full copy of the press release is available on the Spotlight's website.

Voters approved a $49 million bond in 2016 that paid for construction of two new buildings in the district — the middle school and the alternative high school campus, which was recently renamed Plymouth High School. Of that funding, close to $5.5 million was for safety improvements and science lab upgrades at the high school. Work on that aspect of the bond is expected to move forward soon, Stockwell explained Wednesday.


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