By Alisha Roemeling
Sept. 5, 2017
LOWELL — The Lowell School District hopes to double its money this fall when it comes to making long overdue upgrades and structural repairs to two aging schools.
First, it will ask district voters in the Nov. 7 election to approve a $4 million bond measure that will increase property taxes.
If successful, the bond would enable the district to generate up to $4 million in state funding.
The Department of Education would provide a grant of $3 million under the Oregon School Capital Improvement Matching program, which supports communities that pass general obligation bonds for school improvements. Additionally, district officials have said the state could provide $1 million more for project costs.
School board members voted 5-0 on Aug. 28 to pursue the bond measure for improvements at 87-year-old Lowell Middle/High School and 77-year-old Lundy Elementary School.
Safety and security
The upgrades are meant to enhance safety and security, remove asbestos, and update mechanical, plumbing, lighting and technology systems. The measure also could pay to make buildings more accessible to students with disabilities.
“Our board has done an exceptional job of putting our students and their educational needs first,” Vice Board Chair Dennis McCallum said at the board meeting. “This opportunity for funding with the state won’t come around again, and we have to act now to make upgrades for our schools.”
The board filed the bond measure with the Lane County Elections office on Thursday.
Lowell, with about 1,000 residents, is about 23 miles southeast of Eugene, on the north shore of Dexter Reservoir, near Highway 58.
If the measure is approved, Lowell School District property taxes would increase by $1.06 per $1,000 of assessed property value, or $159 per year for a home assessed at $150,000. The total district tax rate would increase to about $6.10 per $1,000 of assessed property value, or $910 per year for a $150,000-assessed home.
Repairs long overdue
Passage of the bond would fund long overdue repairs and upgrades to both schools, Lowell Superintendent Walt Hanline said.
The improvements would include safety and security upgrades, such as cameras and magnetic locking doors in both school buildings; sprinklers and other firesuppression equipment; the replacement of interior and exterior doors; science classroom upgrades; plumbing and electrical updates; removal of asbestos; and replacement of deteriorated floors.
A new gym and wrestling room would be constructed at the middle/high school, and the high school gym would be converted into a multipurpose center and performing arts venue.
Hanline said Wednesday that the district has been in dire need of upgrades for years. It’s been about 22 years since the district passed a general obligation bond, he said.
Residents received a letter from Hanline in May informing them of the conditions of the two district buildings.
“Lowell schools are looking good cosmetically, but experiencing structural and mechanical failures,” he wrote. “This winter we removed one failing radiator to reduce the load on our ancient boiler system. A sewage line rotted through, spilling 450 gallons of sewage under the cafeteria, and asbestos flooring in the high school hallways continues to deteriorate. (Additionally) we are failing our commitment to our students who depend on ADA accessibility.”
Hanline said the district recently spent about $5,000 at the high school to fix sections of a crumbling sewer pipe that needs to be replaced.
The district last spring received a $1.3 million state grant to make seismic upgrades to Lundy Elementary School so that the school, built in 1940, could better withstand an earthquake.