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Portland (Ore.) district seeks approval of $790 million bond request

March 1, 2017
May 16 ballot question is the largest-ever school bond proposal in Oregon.

The Portland school board has voted to put the largest bond request in Oregon history before voters in May.

The Portland Oregonian reports that $790 million construction bond, if passed, would provide funds for renovations and additions at Benson and Madison high schools, demolition and replacement of Lincoln High and Kellogg Middle, and fixes to safety hazards in nearly every Portland school.

If voters approve the proposal, the state will provide $8 million in matching funds.

Portland says its bond proposal is the second in an effort to modernize aging facilities in the district; voters approved a $482 million bond request in 2012. The district has about 48,500 students in more than 90 school sites, and the average age of those buildings in 77 years.

Among the health and safety projects that would be carried out with bond funds:

  • Replacing old pipes and fixtures to reduce lead, improve water quality, and reduce the need to use bottled water
  • Removing or encapsulating exposed lead paint and asbestos
  • Upgrading fire alarm and sprinkler systems
  • Repairing or replacing leaking or deteriorating school roofs
  • Improving accessibility for people with disabilities
  • Improving building foundations and ventilation to decrease radon exposure
  • Strengthening school safety and security

The district had planned to put a bond proposal on the November 2016 ballot to capitalize on the higher turnout of a presidential election, but revelations of lead-tainted drinking water in school facilities caused the school board to delay the referendum.

The lead scandal resulted in the ouster of the district's superintendent and shed light on the problem of deferred maintenance in school facilities.

Bond funds in the proposal also would be used to further the district's move away from K-8 schools in favor of middle schools.

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