Salem-Keizer Public Schools (SKPS) Board of Directors held the first reading of a proposed bond package at its business meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 12. The bond would relieve overcrowding and prepare for future enrollment growth, expand career-technical/vocational programs at all high schools, expand science programmatic offerings at all middle and high schools, enhance safety and security including seismic upgrades, and expand access to technology across the district.
The proposed bond package totals $619.7 million and was built following an extensive process to gather community and staff feedback on a base bond proposal totaling $619.2 million. The base bond proposal formed the starting point for Board discussions on the package and was estimated to increase the property tax levy rate between $1.28 and $1.39 per thousand of assessed property value.
The current proposal was built considering the following guidance from the school board:
- The total amount of the bond package is not to exceed $620 million
- Focus on alleviating overcrowding, including classrooms and infrastructure (gyms, cafeterias, libraries, etc.)
- Prioritize health and safety projects that will benefit the most students
- Consider incorporating as much as possible from content areas presented after the base bond proposal was developed (special education program needs, information from a seismic review, feedback from conceptual design reviews, land acquisition and other program needs)
- Use the polling data to ensure the recommendation is in alignment with community support and represents a cost-effective approach
Changes made to the package include expanding the current Auburn Elementary facility rather than building a new school, reducing the number of special education classroom additions at the district’s six traditional high schools by one, planning for placing new classrooms near their counterparts in the schools (i.e., new science classrooms next to existing science classrooms), planning for an increase in cost escalation, adjusting construction schedules to perform more work early in the life of the bond, building West Salem High to accommodate 2,100 students instead of 2,000 and other adjustments. Changes also include the construction of a new main gymnasium at North High.
The addition of a Transportation facility was removed, but could be addressed by grants and other funding.
Enrollment in the district is predicted to grow by 1,000 students – the equivalent of two elementary schools – in only five years. Many current schools, including five out of the six traditional high schools in the district, are already at or over their capacity limits. Cafeterias, libraries, gyms and other core spaces of schools are overcrowded as a result of adding portable classrooms to address enrollment growth in the past.
The Board will vote on the final package at its January 9, 2018 meeting. In addition, the Board will hold the first reading of the proposed bond measure language at the same meeting.