• Frequently asked questions about M 26-144: a proposed school construction bond

    Q: What is the size of Portland Public Schools?

    Portland Public Schools is the largest school district in Oregon, with 47,000 students in 78 schools. Portland Public Schools is the second largest property owner in the city and one of the region's largest employers with more than 5,000 teachers and school support staff.

    Q: How old are PPS school buildings?

    The average age of PPS schools is more than 65 years old. More than half of PPS schools were built in the 1940s or earlier. Only two schools have been built in the last 30 years -- Rosa Parks Elementary in North Portland and Forest Park K-8 in Northwest. The last PPS school construction bond was approved by voters in 1995 and was completed in 2003.

    Q: How is PPS funded and how are resources spent?

    More than 70 percent of the PPS general fund comes from the state education funds. Another 17 percent comes from local taxes. The remainder comes from other sources. The state of Oregon does not match local funds raised for school construction, as is done in other states.

    Overall, more than 80 percent of the PPS General Fund budget pays for staff – more than 5,000 teachers, educational aides and other school district staff from custodians, bus drivers and nutrition services workers to secretaries, principals and professional and technical employees.

    • More than 70 percent of PPS funds are spent on teachers, curriculum and school support.
    • Transportation, school maintenance and other costs account for 17 percent of the PPS budget.
    • PPS spends 4.7 percent of its resources on central administration. PPS employees a share of health care premiums. PPS staff pay a 6 percent contribution to state employee retirement system.

    According to the Chalkboard’s Open Books Project, PPS spends a comparable portion of its budget on the classroom (72%) as Beaverton (72%) and Salem-Keizer (73%) school districts, and more than the overall state average (70%).

    Q: Why do school districts seek construction bonds?

    A bond provides funds for capital projects like new schools and major facilities upgrades and renovations. Future taxes fund payments to bond investors in exchange for upfront dollars to upgrade schools. Voters must approve new bond. Funds from a school construction bond cannot be used to fund staff (such as teachers), programs or operations.

    Q: Are there other ways can PPS raise money for rebuilding schools?

    PPS is limited to property taxes and the construction excise tax, which is paid at the time of building permit issuance.

    Unlike many other states, Oregon does not offer matching dollars for school construction. There are some state grants for specific purposes, and PPS applies when those opportunities come up.However, PPS is leveraging the proposed bond funding through operational and capital partnerships with the city, the Portland Development Commission, higher education and the business community.

    Q: What would the proposed school construction bond (M 26-144) pay for?

    Priorities in the proposed bond were guided by a plan developed by the Long-range Facilities Advisory Committee, which was led by citizen volunteers.

    The Long-range Facilities Plan states that Portland Public Schools should create effective, accessible and inclusive learning environments that help all students achieve. The entire committee agreed that capital bonds would be required in order to renovate/replace facilities and meet enrollment requirements in the next 10 years.

    The proposed $482 million school construction bond proposal would:

    • Replacing leaking, worn or deteriorating school roofs.
    • Renovating Franklin High School, Grant High School and Roosevelt High School, and replacing Faubion PreK-8 school. It would also begin planning for the upgrade of all high schools in coming years.
    • Strengthening schools against earthquakes.
    • Repaying previous loans that funded 9 roof replacements, 47 boiler conversions, and the Rosa Parks School.
    • Increasing access to schools for students, teachers and visitors with disabilities.
    • Upgrading science classrooms at middle grade schools.

    Q: How much would M 26-144 cost?

    Bond cost for eight years is estimated at about $1.10 per $1,000 of taxable assessed property value, then reducing to about thirty cents per $1,000. For this measure, the cost for a house assessed at $150,000 for property tax purposes would be about $165 a year for eight years, then reducing to about $45 per year.

    Q: Why does Measure 26-144 look different than the May 2011 bond program?

    Measure 26-144 is smaller, more focused and has had more public input than the May 2011 bond. As a result, some of the schools chosen for major renovation are different than the schools selected in the May 2011 bond program.

    Franklin, Grant and Roosevelt high schools were chosen for renovation because they reflect public input that prioritized: high schools in poor seismic condition, with major access barriers. These are the 3 high schools in PPS that most meet these criteria.

    Faubion PK-8 was chosen for rebuilding because it reflects public input that prioritized existing capital partnerships that could leverage additional funds. A partnership with Concordia University at Faubion PK-8 would provide additional private support for rebuilding the school.

    Q: How were these school construction priorities chosen?

    From December 2011 through April 2012, a citizens committee guided the development of PPS’ long-range facilities plan, which informed proposed bond scenarios to fund school improvements. In May and June of 2012, the school district and parent groups held community meetings and more than 600 completed an online survey about possible bond packages.

    Upgraded high schools, seismic safety and accessibility, emerged as key priorities for participants at community meetings. Criteria were reviewed and narrowed by a citizens committee, followed by input from community meetings and an online survey.

    Q: What schools would receive targeted educational and facilities improvements?

    Targeted improvements would address classroom, seismic, roof and ADA deficiencies in schools that would not be rebuilt in this bond.

    • Science labs: As many as 39 schools would receive upgraded science labs. These schools could include: Beaumont MS • Da Vinci MS • George MS • Gray MS • Hosford MS • Jackson MS • Lane MS • Mt Tabor MS • Sellwood MS • West Sylvan MS • Arleta K-8 • Astor K-8 • Beach PK-8 • Beverly Cleary K-8 • Boise-Eliot K-8 • Bridger K-8 • Cesar Chavez K-8 • CSS K-8 • Creston K-8 • Harrison Park K-8 • Hayhurst K-8 • Irvington K-8 • Laurelhurst K-8 • King K-8 • Lee K-8 • Lent K-8 • MLC K-12 • Ockley Green K-8 • Peninsula K-8 • Rigler K-6 • Roseway Heights K-8 • Sabin K-8 • Scott K-8 • Skyline K-8 • Sunnyside K-8 • Vernon K-8 • Vestal K-8 • Winterhaven K-8 • Woodlawn K-8
    • Seismic strengthening: As many as 26 schools would receive seismic upgrades. These schools could include: Abernethy K-5 • Ainsworth K-5 • Alameda K-5 • Arleta K-8 • Beach K-8 • Beaumont MS • Benson HS • Beverly Cleary K-8 • Boise Eliot PK-8 • Buckman K-5 • Chief Joseph K-8 • Cleveland HS • Creative Science K-8 • Creston K-8 • Duniway K-5 • Grout K-8 • Hayhurst K-5 • Hosford MS • Jackson MS • James John K-5 • Jefferson HS • Lane MS • Llewellyn K-5 • MLC K-12 • Sabin PK-8 • Woodlawn PK-8
    • Seismic bracing and roof replacement: as many as 14 schools would receive roof replacements that would reduce the risk of roof collapse in an earthquake. These schools could include: Abernethy K-5 • Ainsworth K-5 • Alameda K-5 • Arleta K-8 • Beverly Cleary K-8 • Boise Eliot PK-8 • Buckman K-5 • Cleveland HS • Creative Science K-8 • Creston K-8 • Hayhurst K-5 • Hosford MS • James John K-5 • Sabin PK-8
    • Roof replacement: as many as 8 schools would receive new roofs to replace worn and deteriorating ones. These schools could include: Bridlemile K-5 • Jackson MS • Laurelhurst K-8 • Lewis K-5 • Maplewood K-5 • Sellwood MS • Stephenson K-5 • Wilson HS
    • Increased accessibility: as many as 33 schools would receive upgrades to increase access to classrooms and educational programs for the disabled. These schools could include: Ainsworth K-5 • Arleta K-8 • Beach K-8 • Benson HS • Buckman K-5 • Cesar Chavez K-8 • Cleveland HS • Harrison Park K-8 • Holladay Annex • Holladay Center • Hosford MS • James John K-5 • Jefferson HS • King K-8 • Lane MS • Lent K-8 • Lincoln HS • Madison HS • Markham K-5 • Meek HS • MLC K-12 • Ockley Green K-8 • Peninsula K-8 • Richmond PK-5 • Rigler K-8 • Sabin PK-8 • Scott K-8 • Sunnyside K-8 • Vestal K-8 • West Sylvan MS • Wilson HS • Winterhaven K-8 • Woodlawn PK-8

    Q: How were schools chosen for renovation or replacement?

    Franklin, Grant and Roosevelt high schools were chosen for renovation because they reflect public input that prioritized: high schools in poor seismic condition, with major access barriers. These are the 3 high schools in PPS that meet these criteria.

    Faubion PK-8 was chosen for rebuilding because it reflects public input that prioritized existing capital partnerships that could leverage additional funds. A partnership with Concordia University at Faubion PK-8 would provide additional private support for rebuilding the school.

    Q: Why aren’t bond funds allocated equally across all schools?

    It is most cost-effective to coordinate renovations or rebuild a school building in a single construction phase rather than to patch building systems. Mobilizing workers on many sites for smaller projects adds costs to the construction. Further, piece-meal repair of systems requires frequent disruption of classes and movement of teaching materials and equipment.

    Completing all necessary construction at one time and coordinating relocation of students is an efficient use of resources. The current proposal is part of a long-range plan, to renovate or rebuild all of schools.

    Q: Will teachers and families have input on how schools should be designed, if a school is renovated or replaced?

    Each school would be designed in a community process, including input from teachers and schools staff, as well as students and families.

    Although the school district has common educational goals and wants to bring every school up to standards, each school has a unique community. Particular factors might include: Partnership opportunities, services to be offered to students, historical significance of the building and integration into the surrounding neighborhood. The school staff working in the building – whether principals, teachers, aides, secretaries, nutrition workers or custodians -- would be a particular resource to the design process, as they know the operations of the school, the students who learn there and the opportunities that exist for improvement.

    Q: How long does it take to rebuild a school? Where would students go in the meantime?

    School construction can take anywhere from 12 to 24 months, depending on the size of the school and the extent of the construction work effort. The staff and students would temporarily move into "swing space" – just as Marysville students now are in the Rose City Park school building.

    PPS has several sites that could be prepared to accept students. PPS would provide transportation. In some cases, students may remain in their current school while a replacement school is built in phases or on another part of the school property.

    Q: Would a bond eliminate the need for portable/modular classrooms throughout the district?

    Schools from the 1920s and even the 1950s were not built to provide the same offerings that schools provide today. Dozens of schools across the city have added modular classrooms over the last 60 years. The condition of these classrooms varies. As schools are rebuilt to hold more students and support current educational programs, modular buildings would be removed. PPS will determine their condition and decide whether to move them elsewhere in the district, sell them to other organizations or school districts that need the space or demolish them. PPS is considering growth projections at rebuilt schools.

    Q: Has PPS had a bond before? What did that pay for?

    Voters in 1995 passed a bond that built Forest Park Elementary School; provided classroom computers and computer labs; carried out seismic safety upgrades at 53 schools, increased fire safety at 45 schools through emergency lighting, fire alarms, sprinklers and smoke containment improvements; increased accessibility; and addressed major building repairs.

    Q: Could PPS sell closed buildings and extra property to pay for school construction?

    Portland Public Schools has closed 13 schools in the last 11 years, and has sold or leased some properties to earn money for facilities work. Other former PPS schools are in use for special education, alternative schools, family support centers and early childhood centers. One is leased to a Catholic school. Other sites, including Clarendon, Smith and Kellogg, are unused or underused and could be useful swing sites where schools could relocate when their home buildings are being modernized, much as Rose City Park School is housing Marysville K-8 after that school burned.

    Q: Why would some school buildings be renovated rather than replaced?

    The decision to fully renovate or completely replace an older building depends on the school building, its construction and character, its site and the scope of the work to be completed.

    Suburban school districts often construct new schools on green fields (vacant parcels that do not require removal of existing structures). This type of construction generally is easier and more economical than redevelopment of occupied sites. However, demolition followed by new construction or renovation are the only options available to PPS.PPS has many historic schools. If a school bond is approved, historic buildings that would be upgraded through a school construction bond would be renovated in a way that is consistent with the building’s historical designations and building components, while providing up-to-date teaching and learning environments and more durable, sustainable finishes. Teachers, staff and families would be involved in planning to help preserve the unique aspects of each school and its integration into the surrounding community.

    Q: How has PPS addressed seismic issues to date?

    Seismic safety is a high priority for Portland Public Schools. Most of our schools were built before seismic-resistant measures became standard in modern building codes.

    The previous facilities bond – passed in 1995 – included more than $47 million of seismic upgrades to 53 schools. Nine school roof projects in 2009 also significantly increased seismic safety by including roof seismic upgrades; roofs built to modern construction standards help stabilize the entire building.
    In July 2012, Portland Public Schools received a $1.5 million state grant for seismic upgrades to Alameda Elementary School.

    Q: How will PPS maintain newly renovated buildings appropriately?

    The school board approved a Capital Asset Renewal policy, which dedicates an on-going revenue to fund preventative maintenance and repair at Forest Park, Rosa Parks and any schools that would be renovated in the future.

    Renovated buildings lend themselves better to our lower level of maintenance as newer buildings require less maintenance and repair.

    Q: Does PPS have too many schools?

    Over the last 11 years, Portland Public Schools has closed 13 schools as student enrollment declined district-wide because of lower birth rates in the city and higher housing costs that resulted in regional demographic shifts.

    However, more than 8 out of 10 students who live in Portland attend a PPS school. In the past 4 years, PPS’ enrollment has increased by more than 1,000 students and enrollment is projected to exceed 50,000 students by 2022.

    Q: Will PPS keep all 78 schools open for the next 30 years?

    At the same time, enrollment growth is not even at all grade levels, and in all neighborhoods of the city. Closing schools is one option that has been used to ensure that students have access to core educational programs when enrollment changes in a specific neighborhood result in under-enrolled schools.

    Each year, school district staff monitor student enrollment at each school to determine whether schools re too small to offer a core academic program, or if they are overcrowded. When necessary, the Portland School Board will consider changes for those schools, including possible boundary adjustments, student assignment shifts (feeder pattern adjustments for neighborhoods or programs), grade reconfiguration and closure if necessary.

    However, many PPS school buildings are too small to accommodate the number of students necessary to support robust educational programs at today’s funding levels, or provide opportunities for school consolidation. Building larger school buildings enables schools to enroll more students and offer more classes and programs.