Bond advisory committee begins outreach efforts


Community members invited to take new survey

Aug. 4, 2018 — The Siuslaw School District Board of Directors is in the final stages of preparing to ask residents to authorize the district to borrow almost $109 million to refurbish all three schools. The request came after more than a year of research, discussion and analysis.

The measure will be on the ballot November, and the effort to convince the public of the need for the money is now fully underway. 

Siuslaw School Superintendent Andy Grzeskowiak summed up the reasons for the requested funding earlier this year: “The total amount the board will be sending to voters in November for bond approval is for projects at all three school sites across the district. The goal is to reset the clock on major deferred maintenance projects and expenses while bringing all facilities up to current codes and providing students a modern learning environment that reflects current best practices in education to prepare students for their futures.”

The effort to convince voters of the need for the bond passage is now in the hands of an advisory committee that will provide relevant information to individuals and interested groups.

Kim Erickson is one of the point people for the committee. She encourages anyone that is curious to know the specifics of the plan to contact her for more information.

“Currently, various community members are working to reach out to as many individuals and organizations and groups in town to present information on the Siuslaw School Bond that will be on the ballot in November,” Erickson said. “We would like to encourage any individual or organization to let us know if they would like for us to present the information to them. We would also like to encourage all community members to attend one of the presentations that will be given.”

The Siuslaw School District Bond Advisory Committee meets every Thursday at 5:30 p.m. at either the district office or the high school. The meetings are open for anyone to attend.

Grzeskowiak is prohibited by law from publicly advocating for passage of the upcoming bond measure, but is allowed to provide facts pertaining to the bond.

“All of this really started with the technical evaluation of the buildings last year. Having a team of professional engineers go through and evaluate all facilities from top to bottom, including all sub-systems, gave us much more information than in past efforts,” Grzeskowiak said. “We knew there was a need to do the projects, and the engineering team confirmed that for both the public and the board. I had been asked by board and community members to objectively define the differences between need and want in terms of facility planning, and with the technical review we have accomplished that task.”

Erickson has the freedom to not only provide facts to the public but also to share the rationale behind the decision to ask for the $108.6 million bond.

She has provided the information the advisory committee will be sharing with the public as it makes a case for the need for this measure. This includes:

  • The elementary and high schools are too antiquated to bring up to modern seismic and building codes.
  • The plumbing, electrical and mechanical systems are at the end of their life.
  • The high school has no kitchen or cafeteria.
  • Simple remodeling cannot overcome all of the safety concerns of the original floorplan.
  • Buildings do not fit current models of effective, 21st-century instruction.

Erickson believes that the passage of the bond will allow the district to make the changes necessary to provide students with a safe and secure environment that meets the teaching and learning methods of the modern age.

Next year, the district is looking to expand programs for business, technology and construction education. This is a nationwide trend that is reflected in the increased attention being afforded to career technical and trade focused students.

Both Erickson and Grzeskowiak realize the amount of money being requested is large, but they point out that much of the expense is for overdue maintenance and continually rising construction costs.

Bond Advisory Committee wants the community to know the new campus will also provide spaces that can be used by the public in case of a natural disaster.

“These projects are more than just about the school buildings themselves. They are also about part of the greater Florence community,” Grzeskowiak said. “The goal of the district is education, but there will be secondary benefits as well. The new high school will now be up to seismic code and can serve as a community shelter in the time of an emergency.”

There will also be tangential benefits that Grzeskowiak hopes residents will include in their deliberations when they consider the district’s bond request.

“The construction will be a short-term boon to our local economy. Not only will there be opportunities for local people and companies to be part of the projects, specialty firms from outside of Florence will be staying here in town, eating in restaurants and putting money back into local businesses,” he said.

The bond advisory committee has already scheduled a number of public presentations on the upcoming bond measure and invites interested groups to contact them to schedule a presentation.

“We ask everyone to be as informed as possible about the current bond as well as current graduation rates and the schools’ current conditions,” Erickson said. “We do realize that this bond is a large amount; however, this is something that we feel is very important to our community.”

Community members are asked to complete an anonymous survey, www.surveymonkey.com/r/bap2, to provide feedback to the committee.

For more information on the upcoming bond measure, call the Siuslaw School District at 541-997-2651 or attend a weekly Bond Advisory Committee meeting.


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