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Bond is ‘food fight’ for elementary students

Of the Keizertimes

Gubser Elementary School principal Dave Bertholf is looking forward to the day when his students won’t be served lunch in a hallway.

If the $619.7 million construction bond passes on May 15, Bertholf will soon get his wish, as Gubser would use a large chunk of its $5.5 to $6.5 million on a new cafeteria and kitchen.

Gubser, which was built in 1976 without a cafeteria or full-sized kitchen, currently has four different lunch periods, beginning with kindergarteners at 11:10 a.m. The last students are fed at 12:45. Each group packs into a space that was once used as a classroom.

Since there’s not enough room for everyone, some students eat in pods in another part of the building.

“It’s too small,” Bertholf said. “Half the kids that could be in there are eating somewhere else, which spreads out the supervision need. Kids aren’t able to eat with their friends. There’s a social impact as well.”

Melissa Frank, a fourth grade teacher at Gubser for 12 years, spends the early part of one of the busiest lunch periods telling students to scoot over so more kids can sit down.

“If we don’t do that, then there’s no room for kids and they are standing with their food,” Frank said. “There’s a lot more behaviors. We’re putting out fires the whole time, getting into things that weren’t ever an issue before. It’s harder when there’s this many kids and there’s no room.”

At Keizer Elementary, which would also use part of its $9.3 to $10.3 million on a cafeteria and kitchen, food is also served in hallways and students eat in classrooms.

Students pack into a space meant to be a classroom for lunch at Gubser Elementary. If the construction bond passes on May 15, Gubser would get a new 3,450 square foot cafeteria.

The busiest lunch takes place at noon with nine classes of first and fourth graders.

“It’s a coordinated mess,” Keizer principal Christine Bowlby said. “It’s hard because you have first graders who have 30 minutes and they’re having to get their lunch and they’re having to wait. We have kids who won’t even get back to the room after 15 minutes so then they’re ending up with 10 minutes to eat. It makes it a real challenge.”

The Salem-Keizer School District estimates that the lost instruction time for elementary schools that do not have a cafeteria is about nine days over the course of a school year.

Since Keizer Elementary doesn’t have a dishwasher, trays and silverware are boxed up and shipped off everyday to be cleaned and then returned the next day.

Both Keizer and Gubser are growing at rates so fast that they’ve already passed projections by Portland State University’s Population Research Center.

While Gubser was projected to have 568 students in a building designed for 467 by 2035, the school is already at 605 students and Bertholf is planning for 620 kids next school year.

While Gubser would be one of the first schools to be renovated under the bond, with construction possibly beginning as early as fall of 2018 and finishing the following September, a portable with two classrooms will be installed next school year since classrooms are already at 31-34 students.

“We can’t wait,” Bertholf said.

Along with a new cafeteria and kitchen, Gubser would get three new classrooms, a relocated covered play area and improvements to its gym and HVAC system through the bond.

Keizer, the largest elementary school in the city, was projected to have 736 students by 2035 but has already surpassed 740.

With construction scheduled to begin in 2022, Keizer would get four new classrooms, a multipurpose fitness room, additional parking and reoriented drop-off lanes. The school would also see improvements to its plumbing, increase visibility of main entry from the office and library improvements.

Both schools would also get partition walls replaced, intercom and card access system upgrades and expanded wireless capacity.

Gubser was scheduled for construction before Keizer because of a rapid increase in enrollment this school year which led to a lack of classrooms. Keizer also experienced growth and while overcrowded, has been able to accommodate the student body for the time being.

Cummings Elementary, which is just under its capacity at 430-plus students, would get its existing cafeteria expanded as part of its $1.8 to $2.8 million. With construction beginning in 2020, Cummings would also see sidewalk additions on Delight Street, heating and ventilation improvements, seismic improvements and increase visibility of the main entry from the office.

Clear Lake would receive $175,000 to $225,000 for music room and site drainage improvements as well as removal or replacement of end-of-life portable classrooms.

Weddle would get $850,000 to $1.6 million to replace its roof and to improve its music room.

Forest Ridge, the newest of the Keizer schools, built in 2002, would receive $75,000 to $125,000 for improvements to its HVAC system. All schools will get intercom and card access system upgrades as well as expanded wireless capacity.

Ballots were mailed out Wednesday, April 25.

If passed, the $619.7 million proposed bond would increase the current property tax levy rate by an estimated $1.24 per $1,000 of assessed property value.