The Roseburg School District’s $6 million bond levy failed Tuesday, sealing plans to close Rose Elementary School this fall.
Some 58 percent of voters said “no,” solidifying a school board decision last month to close Rose in Southeast Roseburg if the bond failed.
“I’m horribly, horribly devastated,” said Jessica Schan, president of Rose’s parent-teacher organization.
The bond would have paid for major maintenance projects to school buildings and updates to technology and curriculum. It would have cost taxpayers an estimated 37 cents per $1,000 of assessed value, or $55.50 a year on a $150,000 house.
An election night party at O’Toole’s Pub in downtown Roseburg quickly turned sour when the results came in. School board members said they’ll have to find other ways to make up for declining enrollment and a budget shortfall. Closing Rose in the fall will save the district about $300,000, but that’s not enough to cover falling behind on maintaining schools, getting up-to-date on curriculum and replacing aging computers and other technology, they said.
“We got beat good,” board member Joe Garcia said. “I’m pretty surprised.”
He said he’s hopeful that increased funding from the state will help the district pay for expenses it has put off. In the past five years, the district has cut $10 million from its budget.
Still, increased state funding won’t save Rose from closing, Garcia said. Board members have long wrestled with the decision to close one of the district’s nine elementary schools to free up funding for curriculum, maintenance and technology.
The bond’s failure will have serious consequences for the school district, Superintendent Larry Parsons said Tuesday.
“The whole school closure thing will have to move forward,” he said. “A lot of hearts were broken tonight.”
Schan is also the secretary of FIRMGROUND for Kids, the group that emerged to campaign for the bond levy. FIRMGROUND stands for Fir Grove, Rose, Melrose, Green; Opportunities Utilizing New Directions. The name refers to four elementary schools that were on the board’s short list for closure. Group members urged board members to keep all nine elementary schools open if the levy passed.
The bond’s failure is a blow to the entire district, Schan said.
“I just feel sad for all the kids and the curriculum and all the cuts they’ll have,” she said. “It’s not only a loss for Rose, it’s a loss for the entire community.”
Closing Rose will shuffle students throughout the district next school year. Students attending the eight remaining elementary schools may be forced to move to other schools to make room for Rose students.
The district had long floated the idea of running a tax levy. The school board last year rejected the option of closing either Rose or Green and instead unanimously decided to seek a levy. The board later dropped the levy proposal, worried that in a poor economy voters would turn down the measure. In January, still faced with a budget crisis, the board voted to close a school. The decision motivated Roseburg parents and other community members to campaign for a levy in hopes of saving Rose.
Rose Elementary instructional assistant Teresa Royston has worked at the school for the past eight years. She attended Rose when she was a kid and her two youngest children also went to the school. Royston, who lives a block away from the school, chocked back tears Tuesday at O’Toole’s after hearing the news that the bond failed.
“It’s terrible. I’m so concerned for our kids. I’m kind of in shock,” she said. “I’m worried about the kids. They’re going to be dispersed to different schools.”
Royston said it will be hard to see Rose close.
“It’s not just a job to me. It’s so much more,” she said. “I love those kids. Our staff is like a family. We’ve been together for so long.”
Diane Parker of Melrose hung her head when she heard that the bond failed. Her two children attend Melrose Elementary School.
“I just can’t believe it,” Parker said. “I still think there were some very uneducated voters or people who don’t want to pay taxes. I feel for our friends and colleagues at Rose right now.”
Parsons said he may have been too optimistic that the bond would pass.
“Of course I’m very disappointed,” he said. “I let myself believe it had a good chance to pass, but now I have to come live in the real world.”
The district will have to find a way to move forward without the support of a bond, Parsons said.
“We’re hoping that we get a little more (state) revenue this year and hope that the economy continues to improve.” he said. “It will just take years longer to recover.”
Board Vice Chairman Rodney Cotton said he was saddened by the election results.
“This vote doesn’t change our needs. They’re still there,” he said. “I wish the folks that voted ‘no’ ... will get involved with their schools. It’s going to take a whole community to get out of this, because we’re in a mess.
“The real losers are our kids,” Cotton added. “But they’re pretty resilient. They’ll move on.”
• You can reach reporter Inka Bajandas at 541-957-4202 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.