Built in 1953, Douglas High School is more than 65 years old and has seen more than three generations of Douglas County residents graduate. My wife is among those (class of ‘01), and my own three sons will someday be Trojans as well.
Leaking classroom roofs, snow-collapsed cafeterias, inadequate heating and electrical, third-world locker rooms and one small earthquake away from catastrophe.
It just doesn’t make sense to keep putting Band-Aids on top of Band-Aids. The school board has done their homework and realize that nobody likes tax increases. In all honesty, given the condition of the school, this plan is a long time coming. But the board waited until the previous school bond was set to expire and then, after going back to the drawing board again and again, came up with a financially sound plan that would keep the tax rate nearly identical to the previous bond — slightly lower, actually.
Measure 10-169 would give Douglas High School a new academic building with safety and technology in mind. The building would be built to new seismic standards and have increased security measures for protection of students and staff. The building would be energy efficient, saving the district thousands of dollars that could be used to invest in educational materials and services. It would also be tech-friendly, with improved Wi-Fi access and up-to-date learning tools built for the 21st century.
What message does it send to students when they have buckets in classrooms to catch rainwater? How can Douglas High School compete to attract the best teachers when the bathrooms are falling apart?
Even given all of this, some people may be hesitant.
I have heard variations of this question: Why should I vote for this if I don’t have kids, or if my kids have already graduated? My simple answer: Strong schools sustain communities. Currently, the condition of the district’s flagship school is pushing families out of the area. The top question for dedicated parents when moving to an area is “how are the schools?” Right now, not so great. But we can fix that.
There are also concerns about transparency and the money being spent on other things, such as PERS, non-essential programs and salaries.
First, projects like this do not go to bid until they are approved, so engineers and architects use a cost per square foot calculation based on current approximate cost for capital projects like schools or commercial buildings. Those estimates fluctuate over time.
According to Winston-Dillard School District Superintendent Kevin Miller, last year the cost of construction of the Lookingglass gym increased by 9% per quarter, on average. This is why there is urgency to get this bond levy passed now. As years pass, the construction cost of projects like this increase considerably.
The Winston-Dillard School District School Board has made every effort to share details with the public throughout the planning process. Conceptual cost spreadsheets were part of every public meeting and planning work session on this project. School board meeting minutes, including from the work sessions that started last summer, are available upon request from the district office at McGovern Elementary. In addition, Henry Fitzgibbon from Soderstrom Architects was available for face-to-face conversations and questions during those meetings.
If voters pass Measure 10-169, the school board will have $20 million for this project, $16 million from the bond and a $4 million matching grant from the state of Oregon only available if the measure passes. Change orders would be approved or denied by the board as the project is being built. Inflation costs and contingencies are built into the budget for the project, but they are rough estimates. The board is committed to completing the project within the approved budget and would welcome public input as the project progresses.
Finally, state law forbids the district (or any other public institution) from using bond levy dollars for anything other than the project as outlined in the ballot language. That means, if approved, the funds cannot go toward things like PERS, salaries, or other schools in the district.
The bond language clearly states that this project is for Douglas High School only. This $20 million bond would go far beyond repairs and renovations. The old gym and cafeteria would be refurbished and repaired, but the current (and dilapidated) upper and lower halls would be demolished, with an entirely new two-story building constructed in their place. In addition, a new gym, complete with functional locker rooms would be constructed, as well. Fixtures, desks, chairs, media center equipment, etc are included in the bond. Books and instructional materials are not.
The official bond language, detailing the uses and impact of the bond, is on file at the Douglas County Elections office: www.co.douglas.or.us/clerk/documents/10-169Winston-DillardSchoolDistrict116.pdf
Consider joining a tour of the high school to see the current conditions firsthand: Contact me at 541-203-3022 or email@example.com