News

Seaside School Board Says It Needs $128.8 Million To Build New Hillside Campus

Cannon Beach Gazette | June 28, 2013 12:36 a.m. | Updated: June 28, 2013 7:36 a.m.

Contributed By:

Nancy McCarthy

The announcement that South Clatsop County residents have been awaiting for several years finally arrived Tuesday night: The Seaside School District will seek a $128.8 million bond measure in November to construct a campus on the hills east of Seaside.

Only six days after the closure of Cannon Beach Elementary School, the district school board unanimously agreed Tuesday night to consider a resolution in August that would place the bond measure on the November election ballot.

If the bond measure is approved, the tax rate for the new school would be $1.82 per $1,000 valuation. On property assessed at $200,000, the cost would be $364.

Property owners already pay $4.41 per $1,000 to support district operations, as well as a local option levy of 52 cents per $1,000.

A campaign committee has been organized to gather voter support for the bond measure. Mary Blake, retired general manager of the Sunset Empire Park and Recreation District, and Doug Barker, event coordinator for the Seaside Chamber of Commerce, are co-chairing the committee.

The $128.8 million would pay for the design and construction of a campus that would include the district’s four schools as well as the purchase of 50 acres on a hill east of Seaside Heights Elementary School. The property’s cost, however, hasn’t yet been determined, and the district may have to wait until voters approve the bond measure before the district can buy it, said district Superintendent Doug Dougherty.

Dougherty has been negotiating with the property’s owner, Weyerhaeuser Corp., for several years. The district board has given him the authority to pursue eminent domain on the land, which could result in the land’s condemnation. A judge, then, would decide the final price.

Once the bond measure is approved, it will take four years to complete the campus, Dougherty said.

Although the campus hasn’t been designed yet, Dougherty said there would be separate components consisting of kindergarten through second grade, third through fifth grade, the middle school and the high school.

“We want to make sure the design will keep these groups as isolated as they need to be, but at the same time allow access for students to work together,” Dougherty said.

“The teachers will have the flexibility to share their expertise and bring about efficiencies,” he said.

In addition, there would be shared facilities, including an auditorium. District officials also have been in discussions with Providence Seaside Hospital about providing space to serve students and their families with medical assistance. That space might also be open after school as well, Dougherty said.

As soon as the board approved a motion by Steve Phillips to request the resolution from district staff members, the board and those attending the meeting applauded.

“This has been an amazing adventure,” Dougherty said. “This has been something we have been working on for over 20 years.”

Dougherty outlined the efforts that have gone into researching the need to construct a campus that would house all of the district’s 1,700 students.

Those efforts included an evaluation of the schools by structural experts from the Willamette Education Service District and the state Department of Geology and Mineral Industries. They determined it would cost at least $30 million in basic maintenance and repairs just to keep the schools operational. That cost wouldn’t bring them up to seismic codes, or improve campus safety, Dougherty said.

Several committees also have met over the past few months to discuss the district’s needs. A campus steering committee met 12 times between last December and May. Key communicators, including more than 50 governmental, community and parent leaders from Gearhart, Seaside and Cannon Beach, met four times between January and May.

Three community forums were attended by parents, students and community members who brainstormed about what should be included in the campus, and other forums, involving district faculty and staff members and Seaside High School student leaders, also were held.

A survey of district residents resulted in “very positive” support of a $128.8 million bond measure, especially when they were told about the schools’ current condition and the need to remove them from the tsunami inundation zone, Dougherty said.

Appearing before the school board were two parents from the key communicators group, Lori Lum Toyooka and Kelli Truax Taylor. Truax Taylor is the daughter of school board member Mark Truax and wife of incoming board member Brian Taylor.

Toyooka and Truax Taylor said the committee had unanimously recommended that a general obligation bond measure be placed on the ballot for a kindergarten-through-12th-grade campus.

The campus would “capture an aesthetic that reflects the communities within the Seaside School District,” the women said.

It would be constructed of materials that are easily maintained, durable and long-lasting, able to withstand the coastal environment. Energy and operational efficiencies also would be addressed, they said.

In addition, the “high-performance K-12 school and campus will provide long-term educational opportunity, environmental stewardship and fiscal benefits for students, staff and the community at large,” the women said.

This story originally appeared in Cannon Beach Gazette.

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