Oregon Trail School District to use new plan to plot district facilities' future

FILE PHOTO - Sandy Grade School, Naas Elementary and Kelso Elementary are all expected to exceed capacity within the next 10 years. 
With the population of the Sandy area constantly growing, Oregon Trail School District has been working to assess the needs of its schools in order to serve an inevitable student influx. To help facilitate this, the district hired McKinstry, a Portland construction engineering company, to create a new facilities plan.

"What we ended up with was a pretty big to-do list for all of the schools," district Communications Manager Julia Monteith said. "But this will help us prioritize."

The summary of the plan mentions that "while all school buildings are well-maintained, they are aging." The average age of the Oregon Trail schools is 47 years old.

From this, McKinstry anticipates "systems will be failing at an increased rate."

The schools the company raised as most in need of improvement are Sandy Grade, Naas Elementary, Firwood Elementary and Welches Middle School.

"Within the next 10 years, three schools in the district are projected to grow beyond their capactity: Sandy Grade School, Naas Elementary and Kelso Elementary," Monteith quoted from the plan.

Naas Elementary and Kelso Elementary are already using modular classrooms on their campuses to address capacity issues.

"We looked at the schools with a (functional capacity) mindset," Monteith explained. It's not just about how many students can they fit in seats, but "being able to meet educational needs across the district."

Long range, McKinstry sees a need at Naas Elementary for "additional dedicated specialty spaces, a gym, additional parking and a formalized parent pick-up/drop-off area and additional classroom space." At Sandy Grade the company noted a lack of classroom space, a need for "additional dedicated specialty spaces, staff and visitor parking, a parent pick-up/drop-off area" and noted that the only accessible entry is through the back maintenance door.

Kelso, according to the plan, is also in need of a "dedicated cafeteria, additional parking, additional classroom space and additional dedicated speciality spaces."

All three are expected to exceed classroom capacities by 2023, if not sooner.

With the plan only recently completed, the district is still working to apply the findings. There is no definite course of action prescribed for any of the schools outlined as being in need of improvements.

The state has some matching grant funds for capital investments, which the district is aware of, according to Monteith.

After the public response after the last bond for the new high school was passed several years ago, the district is hesitant to propose another. However, "a bond will definitely be part of the discussion with the school board," Monteith said. "They have to consider the options we might have for funding."

"(The high school bond) was a huge money measure," she added. "If we were to go out for a bond for facility improvements or even a new elementary school in the future, it wouldn't be nearly the size. It's also one of those things where it's not just the existing community taking the brunt of a tax."

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