District Forms Committee to Tackle Building Issues

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At its special meeting on Monday, Sept. 29, the Hermiston School Board gave its support to establishing a Citizens’ Review Committee (CRC) to help shape a future capital planning recommendation for the district.

The CRC will evaluate the infrastructure challenges facing Hermiston School District, including aging schools, high student enrollment growth, safety and security risks, and the district’s current tax burden. Building upon prior work by the district’s Facility Master Planning Committee, including its Comprehensive Facility Master Plan, the committee will review the outcomes of the 2008 school bond and provide long-term capital planning recommendations for the district. The CRC’s final recommendation to the board is expected on or before April 4, 2016.

In a presentation to the school board on Monday, Deputy Superintendent Wade Smith noted that HSD is up over 200 students since last year. This higher level of enrollment forced administration to cap 10 elementary classrooms this fall, causing excessive student shuttling and increased transportation costs. Additionally, Smith said class sizes now exceed optimal student-to-teacher ratios in some locations. The strain placed on core infrastructure at the district’s older facilities is noteworthy, according to Smith. Desert View Elementary School now supports a student population of over 600 students, but it was initially designed to accommodate about 400 students. Common spaces such as the gymnasium and library are undersized to appropriately serve the higher number of students.

Establishing the CRC is part two of a deliberate five phased approach to a potential capital construction bond tentatively planned for May, 2017.