Salem-Keizer Public Schools pitching historic bond measure - KPTV - FOX 12

Salem-Keizer Public Schools pitching historic bond measure

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SALEM, OR (KPTV) -

Salem-Keizer Public Schools will ask voters this May to pass a roughly $620 million bond measure – the largest in district history, and the first bond proposal since 2008.

School leaders would use the money to address overcrowding, expand educational programs, install seismic upgrades and make safety and security improvements to all schools.

District spokeswoman Lillian Govus said more than half of schools are experiencing overcrowded classrooms, some worse than others.

“We’ve turned closets into educational spaces,” Govus said Tuesday.

Nearly three-quarters of the funding would be dedicated to expanding several high schools and adding more classroom space to more than 20 other schools.

The district said it will emphasize adding classroom space for career-technical education and science labs.

But it’s a $21 million chunk of the proposal that has parent Verona Johnson voting yes come May.

“I would say safety, after what happened in Florida, recently,” Johnson said. “(The money) will impact us, but it’s important for us to have our kids safe.”

Johnson said she worries about her three children and said her daughter has expressed concern about school safety following recent tragedies. 

“My daughter goes to South (Salem High), and there’s no security there, that I can see,” Johnson said. “I walk right through the doors – the office is right there, but if I wanted to harm someone it would be very easy. “There’s no buzz people in, there’s no cameras that I can see, where there’s protection for the students.”

If the bond passes, the district will make security improvements to all 65 schools.

At Lee Elementary School, plans include renovating the front entrance so visitors are more visible to staff.

Many other schools would have similar remodels.

“There are older buildings where the office may be down the hallway,” Govus said, citing McKay High School as an example. 

“We have schools that were built in an era where the school was open to the community all the time. Unfortunately, we can’t operate that way anymore,” Govus added.

The district would also remove most of its hundreds of portable classrooms. There are 30 alone at McKay High.

Govus said each classroom would also be outfitted with high-tech, two-way intercom systems and all schools would upgrade to electronic door access.

“Teachers can access the doors they need to. It also allows us to shut down access at certain doors during certain hours,” Govus said. 

The technology has become more popular in schools across the nation, as communities grapple with how to keep students safe in the wake of mass shootings.
But Salem parent Michael Powell thinks security improvements aren’t necessary. 

“I think the money could be used somewhere else better,” Powell said. “Some of us aren’t making that much money and that’s more drain on lower income.”

Powell said he can’t access his daughter’s school without someone buzzing him in. 

“Some of these outside buildings, I’m pretty sure they could make do with that they got,” Powell said. “Lock the door on the inside and not let just any stranger in.”

According to the district, residents who own a $200,000 home would pay about $248 more a year in taxes if the bond passes.

Construction on the projects would begin this summer. 

School leaders are seeking more feedback on the proposal and will host six meetings at 6 p.m. this month on the topic:

  • April 3 at West Salem High School, 1776 Titan Drive NW in Salem
  • April 12 at North Salem High School, 765 14th St. NE in Salem
  • April 17 at McNary High School, 595 Chemawa Road N in Keizer
  • April 18 at South Salem High School, 1910 Church St. SE in Salem
  • April 19 at McKay High School, 2440 Lancaster Drive NE in Salem
  • April 23 at Sprague High School, 2373 Kuebler Blvd. in Salem

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