By: Brayden Goldenstein

Umatilla schools are being rebuilt… maybe.  

Bond Measure 30-115 is on the ballot for voters in the Umatilla School District. A yes vote would provide Umatilla schools with $14.5 million for reconstruction and updates. On election day, taxpayers will decide if they want to foot the bill for $10.5 million if 30-115 passes. The other $4 million would come from state grant money that the school district may access if they pass the bond.

Why are the construction updates necessary? The latest building that the district has is the high school and even that is over 20 years old, and with time things begin to deteriorate.  According to the Wenaha facilities study that was conducted on the district’s buildings, all three schools will be getting new roofs, HVAC heating and cooling systems and new entrances.

  • McNary Heights (MHES) is in need of a new roof, updated HVAC systems and controls and additional cafeteria/gym space. MHES currently runs just under 700 students through a single cafeteria two times per day to provide breakfast and lunch services.
  • A recent facility study showed that Clara Brownell Middle School (CBMS), built in 1947, is structurally sound but in need of a full remodel. The boiler from 1947 is still in operation but has frequent failures and has resulted in the cancellation of school due to lack of heat or plumbing on numerous occasions.
  • Umatilla High School (UHS) continues to be the flagship building for the district and replacing the roof and updating the HVAC systems and controls allows it to remain in top order for the years to come.
  • All three schools present significant safety concerns due to entrances and offices which allow full access to the entire building.

(http://www.umatilla.k12.or.us/2016-bond)

“So the middle school, if we could pass the bond, would get a whole new everything,” said Heidi Sipe, the Superintendent of the Umatilla School District.  

McNary Heights has space issues. “[They are] running over 700 kids through one cafeteria,” Mrs. Sipe said. A new cafeteria and gym will be added to hopefully make it more efficient for serving students.  

As far as the entrances to the schools, it’s all about safety, “what we would do is reconfigure all the entrances to the schools, put door alarms and cameras on all the exterior entrances,” Mrs. Sipe described.  

A team of police officers, firefighters, and security experts will be working on these plans for the schools so that way “we know that we had the best experts to handle the situation,” Mrs. Sipe said.

Part of the sales pitch from supporters is is to remind voters is taxpayers won’t be hit harder. The taxes that they are paying right now will not increase but the amount that they are paying will be extended. Without this school bond the high school construction bond will be paid off in 2023. If 30-115 passes then it will extend the same tax rate 12 more years, until 2035.  

“Their are some people who would argue that when you have better schools, the land value would rise,” Mrs. Sipe said.