Medford School District officials Monday proposed plans for two new middle schools and a bond to pay for them.
During a work session Monday evening, Superintendent Brian Shumate presented a facility analysis to the School Board based on the assumptions that sixth-graders would be relocated from elementary schools to middle schools, that the district would continue to grow by 2.5 percent each year and that it would go out for a bond in May 2019.
Shumate said the presentation is the beginning of a long conversation, and district officials will continue to collect and present information to the board in the coming months.
“I want to keep the conversation on the forefront with the board and the community,” Shumate said. "I think we’ve got close to a year of study ahead of us, but by this time next year, we need a definitive ‘Let's go.’ There are a lot of things that need to be done before we go out for a bond.”
The district is evaluating a number of options for new middle schools, including converting Central Medford High School into a middle school and relocating the alternative school to the North and South Medford campuses or another facility; building a brand new middle school; and converting an elementary school into a middle school and building a new elementary school.
Several elementary schools have reached their capacity, forcing the district to install temporary buildings at four elementary schools last year and relocate two Multi Age Positive Supports (MAPS) classes from Jacksonville Elementary to Roosevelt Elementary this year.
Enrollment, as of Sept. 30, was 14,101, compared with 13,833 in September 2015.
In an effort to make room at the elementary level, district officials proposed moving sixth-graders out of the elementary schools and into the middle schools. This recommendation came after a task force of parents, teachers and administrators last fall researched the best placement for sixth-graders and strategies for optimizing the space available and concluded that “sixth-grade students would best be served in a middle-school setting with grades 6-8.”
Currently, Shumate said he feels the best scenario would be to go out for a bond in May 2019 that would cover building a new middle school, which would cost between $70 million and $80 million, and transforming Central Medford High School into Medford Middle School, which would cost between $1 million and $15 million, depending on the scope of the work.
“For the sake of conversation, I’m calling this (the current Central Medford building) Medford Middle and the new school Northeast Middle so people have a reference point,” he said.
“The younger cohorts are getting bigger — close to 1,100 kids per class — so if you’ve got … 3,300 kids (1,100 each in the sixth, seventh and eighth grades) divided by three middle schools, that’s 1,100 per middle school, which would make them some of the biggest in the state,” Shumate said. “But if you divide 3,300 by four schools, they would have about 825 students each, which is much more manageable.”
Furthermore, it would be nice to have two middle schools feeding one high school so the cohorts stayed intact, he said.
“And just geographically, if you put a new middle school in one corner of the city so you have one on the Northeast side and then this one (Medford Middle) on the southwest side, then it starts to balance,” he said.
Under the proposed timeline, these new schools would open their doors to students in fall 2020, said Chief Operations Officer Brad Earl.
The district has been given 20 acres of property off East Vilas Road and Crater Lake Highway, contingent on it being brought into Medford’s urban growth boundary. An additional eight acres off East Barnett Road has been earmarked by a developer for a school, but it's not a large enough for a middle school, which would require 15 acres.
Jefferson and Griffin Creek elementary schools have the acreage for a middle school but “don’t seem to be ideal from a location standpoint,” Earl said.
Abraham Lincoln Elementary, although not currently large enough for a middle school, would be an ideal spot for a new middle school, Earl said.
Central Medford is large enough to house both the district’s administrative offices and a middle school. But the district’s Information Technology Department would most likely have to be relocated.
The building has about 76 classrooms available and served about 2,000 students as South Medford High School. However, a middle school would only need about 50 classrooms and space for up to 900 students.
Earl said that district officials would want to reconfigure the building into a state-of-the-art middle school with positive learning environments and not just “slap some new paint on it and call it a middle school.”
Shumate said in his analysis that the district is committed to alternative education and anticipates that Central Medford High will “remain a viable alternative option for secondary students.”
“We’re going to rethink the Central Medford concept and, potentially, move them to another location,” he said.
The district has asked Johnson Economics in Portland for an updated demographic study, Earl said.
“If they come back and say, ‘We project the population rate will grow by 4 percent and not the current 1.5 to 2 percent,’ then we might have to look at adding that elementary school as well,” he said.
“The problem is getting out our crystal ball and trying to determine whether Medford is poised for a population boom or not,” he said.
Reach education reporter Teresa Thomas at 541-776-4497 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her at www.twitter.com/teresathomas_mt.