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Bond to fund improvements at every school

OUTLOOK PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - Gresham-Barlow School District Superintendent Jim Schlachter checks the ongoing election results on his phone Monday at an election party at Uly's in downtown Gresham.Voters in the Gresham-Barlow School District passed the $291.2 million facilities bond, which will bring upgrades to every school in the district.

The bond was ahead by 1,461 votes and passing by a margin of 52 percent to 47 percent based on Thursday morning results from the Oregon Secretary of State's elections office. Of the district's 44,000 voters, 14,385 said yes to the bond, while 12,924 opposed it.

"We are excited about the impact this school bond will have on the educational program we provide our students and the positive benefits it will have on the local economy and the health and vitality of our community," Superintendent Jim Schlachter said in a statement.

The bond will pay for major overhauls of Gresham and Barlow high schools. Two elementary schools, East and North Gresham, will be replaced. Hall and Hollydale Elementary schools would get additional classrooms.

The bond also will pay for security upgrades at every school in the district. Alterations will be made to limit entry points at each school, add modern emergency communications equipment and locks on classroom doors to make every school safer.

The bond will cost property owners about $1.89 per $1,000 of assessed property value or $378 per year on a house assessed at $200,000. That works out to about $31.50 per month. It is the largest school bond ever in East Multnomah County.

OUTLOOK PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - Gresham-Barlow School District Bond Chairman Jason Dugan chats Tuesday night with district superintendent Jim Schlachter at an election party at Uly's in downtown Gresham.The district is wasting no time in getting started.

"We plan to begin the process of hiring architects next week. The design process will begin shortly thereafter," Schlachter said.

"During the design phase, we will work with students, staff, parents and community members to make sure the renovations and updates meet their needs," he added. "We will also do some prioritization work to make sure our most urgent facility issues are addressed early on."

Facilities bonds such as this one cannot be used to pay salaries for teachers or any other staff. Bond funds cannot be used for books or art supplies or other classroom tools. The money can only be used for upgrades, construction and remodel of buildings and for items such as roof replacement or heating equipment.

The Gresham-Barlow School District, the state's 10th largest, serves more than 12,000 students in 22 schools across 54 square miles. Some of the districts buildings are close to 100 years old.

Prior to this, Gresham-Barlow voters had not approved a capital bond to upgrade facilities since 2000.

Schlachter thanked the community. "The school district owes a debt of gratitude to the countless individuals who talked with their friends, neighbors and community members about the needs of our schools. It took a collective effort to get the word out about the school bond, and that hard work paid off."

School bonds have not fared well recently in East Multnomah County. In the May primary election,voters said no to three local school bonds. They voted down a $125 million bond for Mt. Hood Community College, an $85 million bond for Centennial School District and a $11.9 million bond for Corbett School District.

Reynolds School District was able to pass a $125 million bond in May 2015 and has started construction on some of the bond-funded projects.

For comprehensive coverage visit PoliticalOregon.com

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