The Medford School Board unanimously voted Tuesday to allocate $24 million to rebuild two circa-1911 Medford elementary schools closed last June because of structural weaknesses.
Supporters of Jackson and Roosevelt elementary schools cheered and gave the board a standing ovation in the cafeteria at South Medford High School, where about 85 people attended the meeting.
"I feel nothing but hope and gratitude," said a tearful Marcia LaFond, a Roosevelt mother. "I'm so excited at having my neighborhood school back."
Officials had considered permanently mothballing one or both of the schools at least twice since planning began for the school district's $189 million bond program because of structural deficiencies, low enrollment and money concerns. However, the renovations to the schools were included in the school district's bond measure, which was narrowly approved in November 2006.
Some school board members said passionate support from the community to keep the schools opened motivated them to move forward with those projects.
Construction of the schools, which will involve a mix of new construction and renovation, is set to begin in mid-September. The schools could reopen as early as November 2009.
The move to rebuild the schools leaves the district's bond program with an $1.5 million deficit.
About $1 million has already been trimmed from a $83 million project to build a new South Medford High School at the junction of Columbus and Cunningham avenues. The cost of that project is about 32 percent higher than what was initially allocated in the bond measure in November 2006.
"I think we can easily make that up," said Board President Mike Moran. "I don't think it'll be a problem. We are not going to have half-completed schools."
One option could be to further reduce the square footage of one or both of the schools or to build flat roofs on the buildings instead of pointed ones, said Alec Holser of Opsis Architecture in Portland.
The decision puts to rest a plan to open a third middle school at the existing South Medford, as there wouldn't be enough funds to renovate the old high school or operate the third middle school.
The board dismissed a proposal by a grass-roots group concerned about the management of the bond program to postpone new construction of South Medford until all the other projects are completed. Under the Save Medford Schools proposal, any leftover money beyond the $63.5 million initially earmarked for South Medford in the bond measure could go toward construction of the new high school after the other projects are finished.
The group also proposed moving up construction time on Jackson and Roosevelt, since they are vacant.
Jackson and Roosevelt are among some of the last schools in Medford where most students can walk to classes.
Jackson, a school in one of the highest poverty neighborhoods in the state, also offers a variety of social services to students and their families, including English as a Second Language classes, free after-school activities, homework help and a discounted health-care clinic.
Reach reporter Paris Achen at 541-776-4459 or firstname.lastname@example.org.