David Douglas schools pitch ‘replacement bond’

Find out why they say this bond won’t raise property taxes from their current level – yet still will provide much-needed improvements to schools …

Bob Lorenz, campaign manager for the David Douglas School Bond, makes a case for this balllot measure before the members of the Gateway Area Business Association.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
They’re known as “The Scots” – fearless warriors on the athletic field.

Over the years, the David Douglas School District (DDS) has demonstrated another Scottish trait – being very thrifty in the boardroom. But, penny-pinching only goes so far when enrollment is up and State education funding is down.

The David Douglas School District’s board of directors, who meet in this building, say the upcoming bond measure will help preserve quality facilities – and preserve instructional positions – at area schools.

This is what we learned in an exclusive interview of DDS Superintendent Don Grotting:

“DDS is going for a $49.5 million bond measure on May 15 of this year. The majority of the funding for the bond is going for the upkeep and renovation of school districts.”

Specifically, Grotting said, the district needs to do roof repair, repair and replace heating and cooling systems, remove asbestos , add insulation, increase access, and improve the quality of drinking water in many school buildings.

“There needs to be replacement of some of the old modular buildings we’ve had in service that are way past their ‘use dates’. Money is needed to replace textbooks and replace or update instructional technology. The district has not adopted textbooks as per state requirements, simply due to the lack of funding. We are several ‘textbook adoptions’ behind now.”

Looking ahead to the future, DDS Superintendent Don Grotting says the buildings are well maintained – but most are in need of capital improvements.

DDSD is a Portland school district is famous for “deferred maintenance” – not spending money to keeping up its buildings. East Portland News asked Grotting if DDS has been shuffling maintenance issues to the side.

“Actually, look in any of our buildings; you’ll find they are in very good condition,” Grotting replied. “Our custodians and maintenance people, who are responsible for the care and upkeep of the buildings, have been doing a really good job, compared to some other school districts.

“We have, in fact, historically spent money on care and upkeep,” Grotting argued.  “However, over the past five or six years, because the reductions the State funding, we have not been able to keep up with major capital issues. The time is coming that, if we don’t continue to do such care, maintenance, and upkeep, we could get into a situation in which our buildings are not suitable for kids to learn in, or our staff to teach in.”

With the majority of the money for the bond measure dedicated to maintain the infrastructure, “We feel that, by continuing this care and upkeep, we continue to be good stewards of the public’s money. It will prolong the life of the existing buildings.

“We do not have, nor do voters, the capacity to increase tax rates to build new buildings at this time.”

Superintendent Grotting says the new bond will help them make improvements to all of their buildings in the district.

Every school in the district, and every site, will benefit from the bond measure, Grotting assured. “Every elementary school, every middle school, and all the high schools, will benefit.”

Construction and rehabilitation consultants will help the district with advice, and help the board prioritize which projects to undertake. “For example, we have a lot of heating and cooling systems that need to be replaced, and/or repaired, to create energy efficiencies for the district – this, in turn, will create long-term cost savings.”

The high school will probably receive the greatest amount of money – which would not be surprising, considering that the campus covers about 2 ½ blocks and has more students than live in many Oregon towns.

While it has served well, the David Douglas Swimming Pool truly needs an upgrade, Grotting says.

One David Douglas High project high on the list is their swimming pool, Grotting commented.

“For safety factors, and energy-efficiency factors, we’re looking at whether to update or replace the pool – the cost factors are quite close.”

The swimming pool is important to the school’s mission in the community, the superintendent said – because, in addition to being the home of the high school swim team, and a centerpiece of physical education classes, many senior citizens and grade school students in the community also access the pool. “Our elementary school students are able to use it, and take swimming lessons. Without it, a lot of kids would not get that opportunity.”

DDS without the bond
Because the district’s board feels a strong responsibility to maintain these projects, the district will be funding absolutely-necessary roofing projects, fixing heating and cooling systems, and taking care of other basic needs, Grotting said.

“If the bond measure fails, that money will have to come out of the general fund – dollars that should be going to support staffing and other personnel. About 85% of our budget is in personnel. If those funds are used for maintenance, for the sake of safety and staff, there will be less money available in the district budget for staffing.”

Neighbors feel good about the education provided in David Douglas schools, Grotting believes; and he hopes they’ll continue to support DDS efforts by approving the upcoming bond measure.

No increase in taxes promised
“Because our current bond is about to end, the new bond measure – with voters’ approval – would take its place, at the same rate.

“Talking with people, we find that they feel strong ties with their schools, across the entire district. If the bond does pass, we will have a citizens’ committee overseeing the spending and the assigning of projects.

“It’s going to help maintain the learning environment and safety environment for students and staff,” Grotting concluded. “We appreciate your support.”

© 2012 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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