REDMOND — Vern Patrick Elementary School, in southwest Redmond, has two quirks originating from its 1995 construction.
It doesn’t have a cafeteria, meaning custodians must set up tables every day in the gym, and P.E. classes can’t be held for two hours.
And despite being designed to have four classroom wings — in a design similar to many other local elementary schools — the school only has three. Not only does the lack of a fourth wing look strange, but the land where it should be is taken up by portable classrooms — something most families and teachers don’t love, said Jennifer Hesse, principal of Vern Patrick Elementary.
“Nobody wants to go to a portable,” she said.
But if voters approve a $27.5 million bond on Election Day this Nov. 3, Vern Patrick will finally get that fourth classroom wing, which will add six new classrooms to the overcrowded school, along with a cafeteria.
“It’s an easy win, an easy investment,” Hesse said of the bond.
The Redmond School District is asking voters in Redmond, Terrebonne and Tumalo to pass the bond in order to give school buildings security and maintenance upgrades and build classroom wings at both Vern Patrick and Tom McCall elementaries. And if voters approve the bond, the state of Oregon will give Redmond schools an additional $7.6 million grant.
Unlike Redmond’s 2018 bond attempt — which voters narrowly rejected — this bond won’t raise anyone’s taxes. That could give the new bond a stronger chance of winning over Redmond’s fiscally conservative voters, said Redmond School Board member Liz Goodrich.
“It’s not big and flashy. It’s just meat-and-potatoes projects that need to get done,” she said. “I think that appeals to Redmond voters.”
Every single school in the Redmond School District — even Ridgeview High School and Sage Elementary School, which were both built within the past decade — will receive at least two maintenance and/or security upgrades if the bond passes.
Maintenance projects, such as installing new heating systems, roofs, fire alarms and more, are necessary to keep some of Redmond’s aging school buildings working properly, said Superintendent Charan Cline. Making these upgrades will keep these schools in-shape, so voters don’t have to pay for expensive new buildings, he said.
“If you want your buildings to last, you better take care of them,” Cline said. “(This bond) is an investment for the long term.”
And security upgrades will keep students and staff safe. New fencing and school entryways would ensure there is only one way people can enter a campus, said district spokesperson Kelly Jenkins.Secure entryways have already been installed in some Redmond schools, and many schools in other Central Oregon districts.
“Some of our buildings, if you were someone with hostile intent, you could walk right into the courtyard,” Jenkins said.
A list of the specific upgrades to each school can be found at redmondschoolbond.org.
District leaders also say the proposed bond is fiscally responsible. Because the district was able to refinance existing bonds due to the recent economic downturn, the local tax rate will remain as-is if the new bond passes.
Furthermore, easing overcrowding in Redmond elementary schools by building 12 new classrooms — six at Vern Patrick, six at Tom McCall — is much less expensive than building a brand-new elementary school, said Cline. Those 12 new classrooms will cost about $10 million, but a brand-new school with 24 classrooms would cost about $35 million, he said.
“They’re really getting half of a school’s capacity for a quarter of the price,” Cline said.
Adding new classrooms may be needed to serve the student populations of a rapidly growing city. Redmond added an estimated 6,215 people between 2010 and 2019 — a population growth of 23.7% — according to the U.S. Census.
Vern Patrick and Tom McCall elementaries are also located in two parts of the Redmond — southwest and north — where new housing developments seemingly pop up every day. And a large apartment complex is being built nearby Vern Patrick, which could bring many more students to the school, said Hesse.
“That’s a scary thought as a principal: If we don’t have those extra classrooms, … where would those kids go?” she said. “We’d make it happen and cram those kids in there … but to have extra room would be awesome.”