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Keizer turns out for bond forum

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Of the Keizertimes

Of the first four bond measure forums, Lillian Govus, director of community relations for the Salem-Keizer School District, said McNary High School’s drew by far the largest crowd as more than 70 people packed into the library on Monday, Nov. 13 to see how Keizer schools would benefit from a nearly $620 million bond package.

About half of the attendees were focused on McNary, which would receive $42 million to build 14 new general classrooms, one new science lab, one flexible lab space and two Career and Technical Education spaces.

The money would also go towards reconstructing office space so it’s easier to check students in and out and relocating softball/soccer fields and tennis courts to the nearly 4.5 acres purchased from St. Edward Catholic Church, which would allow for parking expansion and give McNary a blank slate to reconstruct the school’s entrance.

But it was an item that wasn’t on McNary’s list that led the discussion—a new orchestra room.

“It’s a storage space and it can’t be anything more than that with our current number of students,” McNary senior Emma Snyder said of the current orchestra room, adding that the orchestra consistently finishes top five in the state.

Matt Haymowicz, an orchestra parent, said, “In the same way you can’t add a sink to a room and call it a science lab, you can’t add a music stand to a room and call it an orchestra room.”

McNary principal Erik Jespersen said he was all ears.

“We have a choir room, a band room, and an orchestra closet,” Jespersen said. “That sort of thing is what we’d like feedback on.”

Everyone at the meeting was given a survey with four questions: Does the concept meet your vision for the growth of the school? Does this concept support your child’s learning? Does this concept support your child’s safety? And knowing that there isn’t much flexibility with the budgeted amount, are there changes you would recommend?

The results will be shared with the school board and used to finalize the bond package.

In order to make changes to the orchestra room, McNary would have to take money away from other projects.

The new construction at McNary would take place on the turf field side of the campus. Jespersen added spending money in the current building, where the orchestra room is currently located, is more expensive because of code compliance.

Construction would begin in the summer of 2019 and be completed in September of 2020.

Michael Wolfe, chief operations office for the school district, led the forum.

“This is not a wish list, these are real needs,” Wolfe said.

Salem-Keizer School District has grown by 1,745 students since the last bond passed in 2008 and is expected to grow by another 1,000 in the next five years.

Wolfe said if the district did nothing, there would be no room for 1,300 high schoolers and that number jumps to 2,200 without portables.

The needs for each school were determined by an 18-member citizen’s facilities task force over three and half months, who recommended a $766 million bond.

However, a community survey showed that price tag, which would result in an increase of $3 per thousand of accessed property value, was a little too high.

Wolfe added that polling showed for the first time in decades that people were willing to pay more, just not that much. A $620 million bond would be an increase of $1.28 to $1.39.

The majority of the money, $433.5 million, would go towards adding capacity to support enrollment and educational programs.

Construction at Claggett Creek Middle School, which would begin in 2020, includes cafeteria expansion and repurposing two general classrooms into science labs. Whiteaker would also turn a general classroom into a science lab as well as replace its gym floor.

Two elementary schools, Gubser and Keizer, would get new cafeterias, kitchens and classrooms. Cummings is set to expand its cafeteria. Construction at Cummings and Gubser would begin in 2020 and at Keizer Elementary in 2022.

Weddle Elementary is already over capacity but has no room to expand due to wetlands. However, other elementary schools, like Kennedy and Forest Ridge, are under capacity.

“There will need to be changes in Keizer’s feeder system,” Wolfe said, referring to boundaries.

Increasing the safety of schools in the event of a seismic event like an earthquake would cost $66 million.

Wolf said each structure was evaluated for risk of collapse and $56 million would be used to make sure people can get out of buildings in case of an emergency. The other $10 million will increase the design standard of new additions to an immediate re-occupancy standard.

The rest of the bond would go towards an increase in safety and security ($33 million), non-routine maintenance ($73.5 million) and technology and upgrades that comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act ($13.2 million).

“These numbers are not final. That’s what these sessions are about,” Wolfe said.

The school board will finalize the bond package in January to be put on the May ballot.

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