The Baker School Board will seek voter approval in November of a $48 million capital construction bond to improve the safety of district schools, upgrade energy efficiency and build a new elementary school. The proposed bond would include capital improvements at Baker High School that would allow for moving 7th and 8th graders to the Baker High School campus.
If the bond is approved, Baker School District will receive $4 million in state matching grant funds. The money would support projects outlined in the bond measure.
The bond proposal follows nearly two years of study of the district’s facilities. Members of the Facilities Master Planning Committee met for 10 months to develop a district master plan. Afterwards, a 24-member Long Range Facilities Planning Committee reviewed all district facilities and identified four areas of concern:
- Safety and security at all schools
- Aging buildings with high maintenance and energy costs (average age of instructional buildings is 79 years)
- Enrollment levels above capacity at elementary and middle schools. Custodial closets, auditorium stages and even shower rooms have been converted into instructional space for reading groups, speech therapy and other uses. At the middle school, students eat lunch on a balcony above the gym because there is no cafeteria.
- Underutilization of Baker High School, which serves 418 students in a space designed for 830. Only about 60 percent of the building’s capacity is being used each day.
The Baker 5J schools exist to be the center of community vitality eliminating the barriers for gratifying individual educational experiences in order to have capable contributing citizens with character.
After hearing from patrons at a public hearing and analyzing feedback from more than 100 community presentations, the School Board prioritized the concerns into a bond proposal that includes:
- Safety and security improvements at all schools, including secure entries and key card systems to better control access
- Energy efficiency improvements at all schools, such as upgrading the heating and ventilation systems, installing double pane windows and adding controls on all energy systems
- New elementary school for Grades 1-6 on land the district owns north of Baker High School. This would address capacity issues, provide safe drop off/pick up areas, and create a modern instructional environment with classrooms that have room for hands-on, collaborative learning.
- Capital improvements at Baker High School to accommodate 7th and 8th graders, with separation between Gr. 7-8 and 9-12. This would address middle school capacity issues and use existing space at the high school. 7th and 8th graders would gain access to vocational programs and advanced course work. It would also result in cost savings by maintaining only one building instead of two.
“The District completed a very thorough process that started in February of 2016. I would like to thank the parents and community members who put in so many hours on these committees,” said Superintendent Mark Witty. “They worked really hard to create a vision for our facilities that will provide our students with a quality learning environment.”
Board Chair Kevin Cassidy said the bond proposal is a no-frills proposal that addresses the issues identified by the facilities committees.
“This bond would provide secure entries and other safety features for all of our schools and would address the capacity issues we have at all levels,” Cassidy said. “Both of these committees did an outstanding job of identifying the needs and proposing solutions.”
The proposed bond would cost homeowners an estimated $1.97 per $1,000 of assessed value. That’s about $197 per year for a home assessed at $100,000.
If voters approve the bond proposal, Brooklyn Primary School would continue to house kindergarten students and would rent space to early education partners such as Head Start. The district would assess whether South Baker Intermediate and Baker Middle School could be used for other K-12 educational purposes. If not, the district would work with community partners to determine the best use for these buildings. The district will maintain the structures and landscaping at each site.
About Baker 5J School District
Nationally recognized Baker School District 5J (BSD) in Baker City, OR, is the largest of three rural school districts in Baker County, serving 1,700 students and employing over 110 educators and staff. District elementary schools include Brooklyn Primary School, Haines Elementary, Keating Elementary School, and South Baker Intermediate. Baker Middle School and two high schools, Baker High School and Eagle Cap Innovative High School, are also part of BSD. Additionally, BSD sponsors two charter schools, Baker Web Academy and Baker Early College, each offering teacher-supported online education. BSD provides next generation education for the future of Eastern Oregonians and launched Baker Technical Institute (BTI), a career and technical program that partners with regional employers and industry experts to provide an innovative education in hands-on fields. BSD believes strong schools are the foundation of strong and vibrant communities and is committed to prepare students to become successful lifelong learners.