Facilities plan gets a reality check

7:21 am

As reported in The Oregonian today, Portland Public Schools has significantly scaled back their facilities planning, and pushed back the date to float the measure to fall 2010 at the earliest.

Originally discussed as a billion dollar capital bond intended to fix a major maintenance backlog as well as rebuild the high school system, it is now being proposed as a $270 million “something for everyone” plan.

Key among the improvements is basic facilities funding for the K8 transistion begun three years ago with no planning for facilities. (K8 schools, which serve disproportionate numbers of poor and minority students, also continue to struggle with inadequate operational funding.)

It is noteworthy that before the K8 transition began, all middle grade students in PPS had access to age-appropriate facilities.

Since the proposed bond does not fund new middle schools for the areas of the district underserved by them (Jefferson, Madison, Marshall and Roosevelt), it would appear to reinforce the current system of middle schools for white, middle class neighborhoods and K8s for the rest.

While it’s encouraging that the district has stepped back from the brink of allowing the facilities tail to wag the education policy dog on high schools, they continue to let facilities planning reinforce the “accidental” two-tiered middle grade design.

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Steve Rawley published PPS Equity from 2008 to 2010, when he moved his family out of the district.

filed under: Facilities, High Schools, K-8 Transistion, Middle Schools

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7 Responses

  1. Comment from Peter Campbell:

    Time for the Obama administration to come through. Obama has called for massive infrastructure investment to create new jobs, and has frequently mentioned the need to provide 21st-century schools for 21st-century students and the need to increase access to higher education. Time for him to walk the walk, not just talk the talk.

  2. Comment from Steve Rawley:

    Obama’s appointment of Arne Duncan as sec. of Ed. doesn’t inspire confidence that his concept of “21st century schools” is what I’d like to see.

    Just what is a 21st-century school, anyway? Duncan’s view seems to be that it’s a school in which test scores in reading and math improve.

    We know where that leads. Drill baby, drill! To hell with music, art, science, history, sociology, civics….

  3. Comment from David W:


    Several comments on your original post. A discussion of the facilities work was scheduled for Monday night’s (cancelled) school board meeting:

    * No decision has been made on timing for a bond: your assertion of Fall 2010 at the earliest is premature. I expect more definitive conversation about timing could be possible in January /February next year.

    * We’ve never floated a dollar amount, so there has been no discussion of a billion dollar bond that I’ve been part of. The Magellan folks estimated the aggregate cost of bring all of the schools up to standard as between $1-2 billion, but that did not include any improvement in the educational or environmental quality of the buildings.

    * Re: The $270 million now being proposed; it is the current estimate of cost for a set of work that would provide investment in all schools to provide some minimum level of the stabilization capital work, once also called the “warm, safe, and dry” work, as well as some investment in program improvements like covered playgrounds, library expansions, and upgrades for science labs. We’ll have to decide if we want to fund all of this work in the first bond. It is likely that a first bond will also include rebuilding and renovation of a number of schools. We have deferred identification of specific schools for a time to allow for more work on the high school conversations because it is not yet clear how much of this rebuilding work should be at high schools and how much in the schools serving kids in grades k-8.

    * Any way you look at it we will not be able to do all that is necessary for all the schools in one financing. So we’ll have to make some decisions about highest priority for major work in a smaller number of locations, with some investment across the board in the remaining buildings.

  4. Comment from Peter Campbell:

    David – where do you see the Fed’s role in funding this kind of project? Are you optimistic that the Obama administration will provide funds? If so, what happens to money allocated via any local bond? For example, what happens if local voters approve a bond in 2010 and then the Obama administration provides large-scale infrastructure improvements in 2011? Would PPS potentially qualify for less federal funding? Just trying to imagine some possible scenarios.

  5. Comment from David W:


    My impression of the federal goverment interest is that they are very focused on economic stimulus and so they are going to be looking for projects that can be implemented in the next 12 months. 2010 is too late.

    The good news is that we have done extensive work on identifying needs so that we can put together specific lists of schools and projects very rapidly. We have already shared some preliminary information and will be proactive in seeking to provide the Obama administration with opportunities to invest in PPS school buildings and support the local economy.

    So any funding we can get from the feds would either reduce the amount of funding we seek in a subsequent bond, or allow us to fund additional work via the bond.

  6. Comment from Peter Campbell:

    David – glad to see you’ll “be proactive in seeking to provide the Obama administration with opportunities to invest in PPS school buildings and support the local economy.”
    It’s exciting — and incredibly ironic — that the worst economic outlook in generations might finally provide the impetus to make much-needed investments in pre-K through 16. Who’d a thunk, huh?

  7. Comment from marcia:

    All I can say is, the roof is still leaking in our North Portland K-8School…leaked all last year, with gaping holes and buckets to catch the water creating obstacles for kids to manuever around…Water has even fallen on our heads…Overwhelming musty odor at times… probably encrusted with mold…and we get to work in that environment every day….Sometimes I wear a little white mask so I can walk down the hall and not get sick from the smell..Oh well…it’s only North Portland.