BEND, OR -- Ballots for the May special election start arriving in mailboxes, Thursday. Voters are being asked to decided on a $268 million bond for Bend-La Pine Schools, May 16. Development of the request began about a year ago, when the district identified 159 projects it needs to fund as “maintenance and preservation” work. Superintendent Shay Mikalson says that list does not include the Kenwood gym, which was demolished in January after the roof collapsed under the weight of heavy snow. "There were 13 roofs that were identified a year ago, for example; those are on the list. Kenwood Gym, you wouldn’t see that listed. We have insurance that will be covering that. And, in fact, we’re already in the process of design, in building that like-kind structure on-site, again."
The bond would also pay for construction of a new high school in southeast Bend and an elementary school. Mikalson says that location has yet to be determined. "We’ll be doing the hard work, if we’re supported by our community, to locate that where growth is the greatest. We’d use next year’s enrollment – October enrollment – to be that final decision point between west or northeast. Or, if we could ideally locate that in an area that could serve both, that would be the most ideal, obviously."
While Mikalson recognizes not every voter has a kid in school, he believes the entire community benefits from well-maintained facilities. "We have probably only 20% of our community have students in our schools. We think our schools are an asset, regardless. We are open to the community – last year, I think we had 56,000 hours of our schools being used by community groups; we had 94,000 hours of volunteerism in our schools. We think our schools are the heartbeat of our community." There is no organized opposition to the measure, although he admits many people may not realize it’s finally up for a vote, since the district has been discussing the request for more than a year.
To hear our full conversation with Superintendent Mikalson, visit our Podcast Page or click HERE.