Springfield bond targets upgrades at all schools Local The Register-Guard Eugene, Oregon

Springfield bond targets upgrades at all schools Local The Register-Guard Eugene, Oregon

SPRINGFIELD — Of Springfield School District’s 20 schools, a dozen are more than 50 years old.

Some need new boilers while others need siding repairs, new carpet and upgraded electrical systems.

Among the district’s most structurally problematic schools is 57-year-old Hamlin Middle School, on Centennial Boulevard in west Springfield. A district facilities committee has been recommending that the district replace the aging building since 2006.

The district is asking voters to pass a $71.5 million bond measure during next month’s election that would replace Hamlin and make upgrades to all district schools. Bond funds would pay for new computers or handheld computer devices at all schools and build infrastructure for district-wide WiFi access. The bond also would pay for updated phone systems in schools — some of which don’t have voicemail capabilities — and pay for classroom additions in anticipation of full-day kindergarten starting next school year.

If the bond passes, additional kindergarten classrooms at five elementary schools would be completed by January 2016; a new Hamlin would be completed by fall 2017; and new technology would be installed over a six-year period.

For Hamlin seventh-grade science teacher Jen Butler, the school’s classrooms can make science projects challenging.

Some lack enough electrical outlets, sinks and tables to do group work, said Butler, who’s taught at Hamlin for five years. She said it’s difficult to teach students engineering and design skills in classrooms that don’t have enough space or equipment, let alone proper heating and cooling systems.

“It’s impossible to teach those types of skills in classrooms that don’t have adequate heat, storage and plug-ins,” Butler said.

The measure’s support committee, “Strong Schools for Springfield,” has raised more than $9,300 so far. The committee received a $500 contribution from former district Superintendent Nancy Golden, who now heads the state’s school system. There is no formal committee opposed to the measure.

Voters narrowly rejected a similar bond measure last year that would have replaced Hamlin.

Though that failed $62.5 million measure is nearly $10 million less than what the district is now asking voters to approve, the current bond’s proposed tax rate increase is lower than last year’s, largely because of how the bond is structured, district officials said.

Taxes would increase by $41 per year for the owner of a home assessed at $150,000, or 27 cents per $1,000 of assessed value, if voters approve the bond.

Had last year’s bond passed, the owner of the same home would have paid an extra $62 a year, or 41 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value.

The district would pay off this year’s bond over a 25-year period, as opposed to 22 years for the bond that was rejected last year, said Brett Yancey, director of business ­operations.

Assessed value in the district also increased during the last fiscal year, and a 1994 bond was paid off last week, which helped keep the proposed tax rate lower than last year’s proposed bond, Yancey said.

The average taxpayer now pays about $1.03 per $1,000 of assessed property value for school bonding each year, or $155 per year for the owner of a home assessed at $150,000.

If the bond doesn’t pass, the district’s bonding tax rate would drop to 82 cents per $1,000, or $123 per year for the owner of a home assessed at $150,000. In addition to bonding, district taxpayers pay $4.64 per $1,000 of assessed value for Springfield schools.

Oregon is one of few states nationally that does not provide school districts with funding for capital improvements. If the Springfield district wants to do repairs that are beyond what its own electricians and plumbers can handle, the district has just $103,000 for its 20 schools, district spokeswoman Devon Ashbridge said.

District officials say voters wanted more information about what exactly last year’s bond would have paid for. Voters also were skeptical that the 87,081-square-foot Hamlin needed to be replaced, as opposed to being remodeled. Some voters said the bond seemed to favor students in west Springfield.

So, the district restructured the bond to make sure every school and classroom would see some kind of upgrade, Ashbridge said. For example, all classrooms, except for Maple and Thurston elementary schools, will receive door locks that would allow teachers to lock classroom doors from the inside during an emergency, rather than having to go outside of their classroom to lock the door.

District officials hired a local ­architecture firm earlier this year that concluded it would be cheaper to replace Hamlin than to renovate the existing building.

The firm, ­Robertson/She­rwood/Architects, found that it would cost the district $54.5 million to renovate the middle school, based on 2016 anticipated construction costs. To ­replace Hamlin, it would cost $43.5 million.

Among a laundry list of problems the district has identified with Hamlin is that its original electrical and plumbing system is near failure. The school also lacks a fire sprinkler system and has continual roof damage due to rainwater that collects in the school’s inverted roof.

The school’s gym, library and various classroom wings are connected by breezeways that frequently get flooded with standing water.

“Hamlin was not designed for Oregon weather,” Ashbridge said.

BOND MEASURE OPEN HOUSE

When/where: 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday at Hamlin Middle School, 326 Centennial Blvd. Information provided in both English and Spanish. Childcare provided.

SPRINGFIELD BOND AT A GLANCE

Replace Hamlin Middle School: $43.5 million

Full-day kindergarten class space: $7.5 million ( Build four-room additions to Maple Elementary School and two-room additions to Mount Vernon, Riverbend, Ridgeview and Yolanda elementary schools. Expand cafeteria at Yolanda Elementary. Estimates based on $322 per square foot construction costs)

Various capital projects: $6.9 million (Replace boilers; make schools accessible to disabled; add perimeter fencing and interior door locks; upgrade security systems; parking lot upgrades; replace carpet at Mount Vernon and Riverbend elementary schools)

Upgrade technology: $13.6 million ( $3.3 million to upgrade district-level infrastructure, including WiFi network; $6.6 million for new computer devices at all schools; $2.5 million for classroom/school equipment; $900,000 for district-wide e-readers; $300,000 for professional technical equipment)

Leave a Reply