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Portland Favors School Bond With $790 Million Price Tag


Portland Public Schools has proposed scenarios involving Kellogg Middle School, which last had students in 2007. District officials say the southeast Portland school couldn't be opened before 2017, because of the repairs and upgrades it needs.

Portland Public Schools has proposed scenarios involving Kellogg Middle School, which last had students in 2007. District officials say the southeast Portland school couldn't be opened before 2017, because of the repairs and upgrades it needs.

Rob Manning/OPB

Portland Public Schools would rebuild two schools and fully modernize two others under a school improvement package up for a board discussion Tuesday.   

All four options the school board asked for would remove lead from school drinking water and mitigate lead paint and radon districtwide. District officials said spending $150 million on health and safety would cover those three significant health hazards: $28.5 million to address lead in school drinking water, $16.6 million to deal with lead paint and $1.1 million to mitigate radon in affected schools.

The district would also spend more than $50 million on roofs, $12 million on asbestos remediation and nearly $26 million on fire and safety alarm systems, among other priorities.

All four options also contemplate modernizing — but not rebuilding — Benson and Madison high schools.  

Portland school board members asked district staff to cost-out several options, mainly focused on rebuilding vs. refurbishing Lincoln High School in downtown Portland and various approaches to Kellogg Middle School in Southeast.    

Chief Financial Officer Yousef Awwad said one option stood out.    

“I don’t know if I’m supposed to say this, but my recommendation would be to go with option one,” Awwad said. “Definitely.”  

The bond options range in cost from $745 million to $867 million, with Awwad’s recommended “option one” costing $790 million. Awwad said all four options would cost property owners around $1.40 per $1000 of assessed value — the variable would be the length of time the bond debt would be financed. 

Option one would rebuild, rather than refurbish, Lincoln High School. District officials contend that rebuilding is less expensive, in part because refurbishing would require the district to build a temporary high school space to use during construction. If PPS builds a brand new Lincoln, students could continue attending the current building, while the new building goes up on a different part of the campus. 

Option one would also rebuild Kellogg Middle School — a key piece of long-term plans for Southeast Portland schools. Like Lincoln, refurbishing Kellogg is expected to cost more than a full rebuild. A full rebuild is priced at $45 million, while refurbishing is expected to cost $57 million. But the reason Kellogg would be more expensive to refurbish is due to many facility problems and the unique building structure of the mothballed school.

Other options would not have rebuilt both Lincoln and Kellogg. Instead they would have refurbished, or delayed work on those buildings.

Public meetings are planned for February.

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