PPS approves $790M bond measure for May ballot

If passed, bond would help raise funds for much-needed repairs on local campuses

Portland high schoolers attended Tuesday's school board meeting in the hopes of getting a bond measure back on the November ballot. (KOIN)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Portland Public Schools board members approved a resolution Tuesday night to put a multi-million dollar bond measure on the May ballot.

If passed, the $790 million bond would help raise funds for much-needed repairs on local campuses.

High school students previously protested the school district’s decision to keep the bond measure off the November 2016 ballot. Students said problems on local campuses — some almost 100 years old — needed to be addressed immediately.

But back in September, board members said they weren’t ready to put the measure on the ballot. Now the board says it’s ready to have voters weigh in on the bond.

If it passes in May, the bond would fund renovations and additions at Benson and Madison High Schools. Money from the bond would also help fully rebuild Lincoln High School and Kellogg Middle School, according to the school district.

The average PPS school is about 76 years old. When asked why the district is investing in renovations at some campuses instead of fully replacing them, board member Steve Buel told KOIN 6 News it all comes to down to what’s cheapest.

“It’s more expensive in many cases to build new rather than remodel, but it is cheaper to build new at Lincoln and Kellogg,” Buel said. “At Kellogg, we let it deteriorate.”

The district also plans to use funds from the bond for upgrades at Cleveland, Jefferson and Wilson High Schools. Another $150 million from the bond would be used for district-wide health and safety projects, PPS said in a press release.

Some of those projects include:

  • Replacing old pipes and fixtures to reduce lead, improve water quality, and reduce the need to use bottled water;
  • Removing or encapsulating exposed lead paint and asbestos;
  • Upgrading fire alarm and/or sprinkler systems;
  • Repairing or replacing leaking or deteriorating school roofs;
  • Improving accessibility for people with disabilities;
  • Improving building foundations and ventilation to decrease radon exposure;
  • Strengthening school safety and security.

Buel said it would cost more than $1 billion to make seismic safety upgrades at all PPS schools at once. KOIN 6 News previously reported that 20 PPS buildings need retrofitting in order to withstand a major earthquake in the region.

The school board member also said only 20% of money from the bond would go toward health and safety improvements at schools because of timing issues.

“You can’t do much of this while kids are in school, it has to be in summer,” Buel said.

KOIN 6 New will continue to follow this story.