It’s been nearly a year since we held community meetings to review our efforts to improve the physical condition of Lowell’s public schools – Lundy Elementary and Lowell Jr./Sr. High School. I owe you an update on our work to improve these facilities.
For review, we have completed a thorough Master Planning process. During this process, an independent group, gLAs Architects, reviewed our buildings for safety, functionality and learning environment. It outlined recommendations for repairs, replacements and some expansions to accommodate continued growth. We have already made good use of the Master Plan, securing $1 million in grants to perform seismic upgrades to the schools. However, that still leaves us with approximately $8 million in work.
Our hope has been to make use of State of Oregon matching grants, securing $4 million in that manner and the remaining $4 million by issuing bonds. The state grants are provided using a random draw, or lottery system, and then the community must approve matching funds in the form of bonds. We have been unlucky twice now, and are hoping that the program is included in the final 2017-2019 budget, and if it is, that Lowell’s name is drawn in the next funding round, which will happen mid-year.
Here’s why it’s worth waiting for news on the grants: If we proceed without the state funds, we stand the chance of securing local funding but missing the state match, a loss of $4 million. That’s a lot of money, so we are pausing until we know more. That pushes the next possible bond measure out until at least November 2017.
In the meantime, Lowell schools are looking good cosmetically, but experiencing structural and mechanical failures. 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.
The asbestos flooring in the high school hallways continues to deteriorate, and we are failing our commitment to our students who depend on ADA accessibility.
Obviously, we can’t leave failures like this unchecked. We have been making repairs on a case-by-case basis. However, this puts us in the position of spending more and more money to repair or maintain items that ultimately need to be replaced.
This mailing includes an overview of the work that would be completed if we receive the state funding and local bond support. I encourage you to review it and provide any comments or questions. Please use the form included, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will share your comments with our School Board.
We are all grateful for your support, and for your ongoing commitment to Lowell schools. As important as our facilities are, our students and their safety and education are most important to us, and you can count on us to keep our attention on the daily work of teaching our future citizens.
Dr. Walt Hanline
Superintendent of Lowell Schools