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Principals and staff members listen as the Albany School Board conducts a special meeting Thursday.

Godofredo Vasquez, Democrat-Herald

Voters in the Greater Albany Public Schools district will be asked this May to support a construction and renovation bond measure of $159 million, the Albany School Board has decided.

At a special meeting Thursday, board members voted 4-1, with Sandi Gordon dissenting, to ask the district's bond counsel to draw up two resolutions to choose between for a formal bond vote Jan. 23. The amount is to remain the same, but one will include additional multipurpose/gymnasium space at South Albany High School and the other will not.

As discussed in earlier meetings, half the bonds would be issued for 10 years and the other half for 20 years. The 10-20 split would cost voters 75 cents more per $1,000 of assessed value than what they are currently paying for the district's expiring bond: a total of $2.45 per $1,000.

Board members agreed on six main projects to fund with the $159 million if the measure passes. They assigned rough dollar amounts to each but agreed to discuss the specifics further on Jan. 23 before voting on the resolution.

The six projects, with general estimates:

  • A major rebuild at Oak Grove Elementary School, including eight additional classrooms and a cafeteria, $18 million.
  • Acquisition of land and construction of a new elementary school in northeast Albany to share grades with Timber Ridge, $36 million. The current Clover Ridge building likely will continue to be used in some form as well.
  • Vocational-technical upgrades for science, technology, engineering and math at Albany's middle schools, $3 million.
  • Upgrades and repairs to roofs, plumbing, paving, security systems, heating and ventilation systems and other infrastructure needs: $50 million.
  • Renovations, upgrades and possible new construction for multi-use vocational education space at South Albany High School, possibly including additional gym space: $10 million.
  • The first phase of a total replacement for West Albany High School, including an auditorium: $42 million.

Board members spent much of Thursday's meeting struggling with the desire to add gyms and performing arts centers to both West Albany and South Albany high schools while acknowledging that voter surveys don't seem to support both projects.

Survey respondents did indicate strong support for career-technical education space, however, known for short as CTE.

Lyle Utt said he'd favor using vocational-technical funds at South Albany to upgrade the small theater there in lieu of a performing arts center. Vice Chairman Jerry Boehme floated the idea of creating a space at South that could be used for both large-scale engineering projects during classes — drones, perhaps, or robotics — and converted for basketball games at night.

"We're talking about a CTE space that's going to be very effective for our kids," Boehme said.

Chairman Micah Smith said he supports the ideas, but cautioned: "The difficult part is counteracting the message the community has clearly spoken." 

Frank Bricker was more blunt: "To me, we're trying to justify at the last minute something that we want."

Board members directed staff to work up two resolutions for the bond counsel, one of which would specifically reference gym space as part of the South Albany vocational funding.

Gordon, who represents the South Albany area of the district, said she doesn't believe South voters will support the bond at all without feeling as though the high school is getting a fair shake. She said her "no" vote reflects that stance.

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Education Reporter

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