Pendleton voters decidedly approved a $55 million school district bond that will ease overcrowding, replace two aging schools and make room for the full-day kindergarten required by the state of Oregon.
The measure passed 64 percent to 36 percent, according to Umatilla County unofficial results. The 20-year bond will replace another bond that expires in 2014.
School board members, administrators and members of the public gathered at the Prodigal Son to await the results on Tuesday evening. As the numbers flashed onto a screen, the group let out a mass cheer. The earliest results, with all precincts reporting, showed 2,915 yes votes and 1,672 nays.
“This is a monumental night for the Pendleton School District,” said Pendleton Superintendent Jon Peterson. “Thanks to all the people who have been helping with this for what seems like an eternity.”
“I’m thrilled,” said school board member Debbie McBee. “We’re on to planning now. Truly, tomorrow everything starts moving forward.”
Bond proceeds will allow for replacement of two aging elementary schools — Sherwood Heights and Washington Elementary — and transform Hawthorne (now the alternative school) into an early childhood center populated by kindergarteners. Full-time kindergarten requires five new classrooms that the district doesn’t currently have. McBee said the timeline is tight to have the early learning center completed by the state’s 2015 deadline.
The bond will also relieve crowding at the district’s five elementary schools, all of which are maxed out. Some classrooms, designed for 20, have upwards of 30 and the average building age is 69 years. The most crowded schools, Lincoln and Washington, run at 120 percent capacity and the others aren’t far behind.
West Hills will become the district’s alternative school and Lincoln Elementary will house administrative offices instead of classrooms. Pendleton High School and Sunridge Middle School will also see upgrades.
The tax rate will remain the same, costing the owner of a $100,000 home about $230.
Contact Kathy Aney at email@example.com or 541-966-0810.
This story originally appeared in East Oregonian.