Local schools continue to struggle with insufficient funding, and two Lane County school districts, Fern Ridge and Pleasant Hill, filed bond measures that will appear on the May Primary ballot to help pay for improvements to property and facilities that school officials say are greatly needed — one school is basically providing federally assisted school lunches out of a gym concession stand.
Voters last approved a bond for the Fern Ridge School District in 1997, and that bond will expire this year, according to Olivia Meyers Buch, business manager for the district. She says if the new bond is approved, taxpayers will continue to pay the same amount they’ve been paying on their existing bonds.
The total bond is $26.6 million, and Meyers Buch says $12.6 million of that would go toward replacing Elmira Elementary School, built in 1949 and the oldest building in the district. Another use of the bond money includes improving the safety of the office in Veneta Elementary School, which would allow office workers to more carefully monitor who walks into the school and classrooms. Meyers Buch says the bond would also address Title IX concerns by making improvements to the Elmira High School girls’ locker rooms, which are currently smaller and less updated than the boys’ locker rooms.
“We’re focusing on projects strategically designed to invest in our facilities,” Meyers Buch says. “It’s more important to make a smart investment than put a lot of Band-Aids on things that will not last.”
At the Pleasant Hill School District, Superintendent Tony Scurto says that the $17.9 million bond would help relieve crowdedness in the elementary school and improve the 51-year-old Pleasant Hill High School (home of the Pleasant Hill Billies). In the elementary school, insufficient kitchen and cafeteria facilities interfere with federal lunch programs.
“We recently became part of the National School Lunch Program, but operating a lunch program out of basically a high school gym concession area is challenging,” Scurto says, adding that the bond would not increase the current average tax rate of $2.25 per $1,000 of assessed value. Although he cannot directly advocate for the bond as superintendent, Scurto says that he hopes the Pleasant Hill community is aware of the bond and gathers as much information as needed to make the right decision for the district.
Voter registration deadline is April 29 and ballots are mailed May 2.