Facilities Planning Overview
The Hermiston Board of Education has been cognizant of the challenges involving school facilities that face the Hermiston School Community and continually worked to find the best solutions that will enhance student learning. The bond measure in 2008 was submitted to address challenges found in the district’s most aged schools: Armand Larive Middle School, Sunset Elementary School, and West Park Elementary School. Since the 2008 bond, the District has been proactive in working to improve our facilities. One of these proactive measures was to form a planning committee in 2013 of over a dozen community and district leaders to develop a Comprehensive Facility Master Plan. This plan identified several factors that will always affect facilities within the Hermiston School District. These factors—enrollment growth, age of facilities, and safety and security—emphasized the need for the District to develop capital planning projects (both minor and major) and to work with the community so that everyone understands the need to continually look at facility improvement, renovation, and construction.
Since the unsuccessful May 2017 Bond Referendum, the Board of Education has analyzed areas for improvement and in January 2018 formed a Facility Planning Committee to begin exploring the potential for a future bond. This committee built on the work previously done and moved forward to accomplish the following objectives:
The Facility Planning Committee will provide their recommendations to the Board of Education
1. The first factor identified was student population growth within the district and looking at projects that work to maintain workable classroom size for teachers. According to the Comprehensive Facility Master Plan report, “The greatest near-term challenge is current and future student growth projected over the coming decade.” Due to the growth Hermiston has experienced in the past, the District has also experienced corresponding growth in student enrollment. This growth has in many cases exceeded the current capacity of our school buildings and the number of available classrooms. The graph below shows the district’s enrollment—both past history and forecasted enrollment growth which were developed through scientific analysis conducted by the Population Research Center at Portland State University in 2014.
It is noteworthy that since this study was published, Hermiston School District has exceeded both the low and middle ranges of projected student enrollment shown on this graph and is currently within fifteen percent of the highest level of growth (when compared to the difference in number of students between the high and low ranges). This next graph provides a visual of how the actual growth has compared to the projected growth in the study.
This higher than expected growth has created problems since the District and the community are being forced to determine methods to cope with the larger student populations that has occurred sooner than projected. Obviously, the best solution is to provide for larger school buildings that can accommodate more students; however, this cannot be done without new construction or major renovation. In an effort to maintain class size to a manageable level, the alternative to obtain modular buildings in order to house the additional students. As a result of analysis by the current Bond/Facility Community Committee it has been determined that if no solution for additional permanent capacity is implemented, it is projected that 14 additional modular classrooms will be required, where almost 350 students would be served in temporary portable facilities by 2022.
2. The second factor that the District must plan for is the age and condition of schools. As with any type of building, school facilities continually age and the infrastructure (e.g. HVAC systems, roofing, windows, and building structure) will simply get older and become less efficient and effective. While the District maintenance department does a great job to keep our facilities in the best possible condition, some of the infrastructure repairs can require major renovation or construction—and as a result, these projects also require significant funding which may not be available through the annual district budgets or the district’s general funds.
The Comprehensive Facility Master Plan concluded that “Despite an outstanding maintenance and upkeep program, aged infrastructure across the district’s three oldest campuses will pose financial hardships over the coming decade. Rocky Heights Elementary School (53 years old), Highland Hills Elementary (35 years old), and Sandstone Middle School (20 years old) are all showing signs of failing core components.” While the District continues to work extremely hard to maintain our school facilities and keep them in the best possible condition with our limited funds, it is a fact that as buildings get older it becomes more and more difficult to upkeep and maintain them to the standards necessary to ensure schools provide students and the community the best environment to accomplish education and learning.
3. The final factor that affects school facilities as identified by the Facility Master Planning Committee was in the area of safety and security for our school buildings. While the District and each individual school ensures all of our students and staff are safe and secure throughout the day, some of school building designs make it inherently more difficult to provide the safest environment possible.
It is impossible to solve all of the facility issues associated with these three factors due to the District’s desire to minimize any increase to tax rates across the community. In minimizing tax however, there will only be a limited number of projects that can be funded in order to balance facility needs with higher taxes. In order to do a thorough process to identify facility needs associated with the three factors discussed above while taking into account the need to limit funding, the Board of Education is implementing a plan to engage the Hermiston community to identify the best possible solutions and work with the community to make our schools the best they can be.