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Enrollment numbers show fewer students in district in 2019 but middle and some high schools still over capacity

COURTESY PHOTO - Members of the West Linn-Wilsonville School Board, Superintendent Kathy Ludwig and others gathered together on election night.

This story was updated from its original version

It appears the West-Linn Wilsonville School District will receive a sizeable funding boon to pay for myriad projects in the coming years.

Based on early returns, voters in the West Linn-Wilsonville School District approved a $206.8 million bond measure by a margin of 60.79% to 39.21%. The bond will maintain the current property tax rate of up to $3 per $1,000 of assessed value.

"My immediate reaction was just relief and gratitude. On top of that I'm so grateful to the community for their support of students, schools and our teachers," West Linn-Wilsonville School Board Chair Regan Molatore said.

The enrollment numbers for October 2019 recently released by the district reveal a consistant trend: none of the primrary schoools in West Linn and Wilsonville are over capacity (in fact some, like Cedaroak Primary in West Linn, have significantly fewer students than the building was designed for. Cedaroak was built for 500 students but only has 277 this fall). But all three middle schools and two out of three of the high schools are over building capacity. Overall, the district has 32 fewer students starting 2019 than it did in fall of 2018.

Most notably, the bond will fund the remodeling of the current Athey Creek Middle School into a new Arts and Technology High School and build a new primary school in Wilsonville. The district hopes these projects will reduce overcrowding at West Linn High School and other schools, alleviate concerns about crowded classes in Wilsonville as development in nascent Frog Pond residential areas progresses and provide a needed space for the alternative high school. The lease for the current arts and tech building is up in 2022.

"We have growing communities and that causes our schools to grow and we are now able to accommodate some of the crowding that comes with that growth," Molatore said.

Other projects include adding security entrances and classroom-lockdown technology to all schools, building a new performing arts center at Wilsonville High School and adding a grandstand to the West Linn High stadium — so both schools are on par with their sister school — providing more tablet computers to students, repairing aging schools and bolstering career and technical education.

"I have to give the district credit. They take a lot of time in involving the community in the process that leads up to this iteration of bond projects. The district isn't necessarily promoting it but it wants to do what the community is telling us we need," Molatore said. "The outcome is demonstrative that the process was accurate and reflective of what the community wants in our schools."

West Linn resident David Baker, however, felt that the public process that led to the bond was not welcoming of all viewpoints.

"In my opinion it felt like community engagement was about ticking a box. Community engagement is much more than ticking a box," he said.

Baker added: "Opposition to the capital bond was about creating a future opportunity for the School Board to calibrate a different bond that accurately reflects the community's priorities, funds what is essential, and clearly explains how the tax dollars will be spent."

He also felt that the stadium project isn't a good use of taxpayer dollars and hopes that the school district will thoroughly consider the viewpoints of the Willamette and Stafford Hamlet residents when building the new middle school on Dollar Street to replace Athey Creek.

Some detractors of the bond also felt it was too costly, especially considering the district already owes close to $200 million from outstanding bonds. And some didn't think schools were as overcrowded as the District inferred.

Residents also voted to continue a levy of $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed property value to fund approximately 80 educational positions throughout the district by a margin of 70.01% to 29.99%.

"It speaks volumes to the quality of teachers our district has and that the community wants to retain those teachers," Molatore said.

The Spokesman/Tidings will update results as more votes are counted.

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