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What you need to know about the Medford school bond measure

Medford voters will choose whether to approve a $25 million bond measure put forth by the Medford School District in the May 15 election. The district is looking to build two new facilities to house career and technical programs at North and South Medford high schools.

Before sending in your ballot, here’s what you need to know about Measure 15-175:

Why does the district want to build CTE classrooms?

Interest in career and technical education is growing statewide, from the governor’s office to voters, who passed Measure 98 in 2016 to help fund CTE school programs. The measure means $1.7 million for the Medford School District this year and another $1.8 million expected next year. It has used some of that money to pay for new plumbing and electrical teachers and programs, for example, as well as cover tuition costs for students interested in college courses.

Superintendent Brian Shumate has advocated for CTE courses as a means of achieving district goals, including a 90 percent graduation rate by 2020.

Data from the Oregon Department of Education have shown that graduation rates are higher among students who participate in at least one CTE credit. In 2017, CTE “concentrators” graduated at a rate 13 percentage points higher than Medford students in general.

“I’m a firm believer that kids need to be connected to the process,” Shumate said in an interview earlier this month. “How we fund is based on that belief.”

The CTE facilities will expand the district’s offerings for Pathway courses, which aim to introduce high school students to potential career options or areas of academic interest. Medford offers 33 CTE classes in nine subjects at North Medford and 36 classes in seven CTE subjects at South Medford.

Why two buildings?

Medford outlined equity as one of its core values in its “Vision 2020.” School board member Jim Horner asked this question at a Jan. 22 work session, and Chief Academic Officer Michelle Cummings responded that busing students from one school to a facility at the other would create barriers that wouldn’t be equitable.

Other school districts have located such facilities off-campus. Central Point, for example, is creating a makerspace for CTE work in the former Crater Iron building.

What will the $25 million pay for?

Money from the bond would be used to construct and equip buildings for CTE programs, including — at minimum — plumbing, electrical, carpentry, and heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC), the district says. The proposed new building at North would first require demolition of the technical arts building and remodeling of the graphic arts buildings to include a drafting lab, along with plumbing, carpentry and electrical shops. South’s would be built from the ground up.

How much will the CTE bond cost taxpayers?

Taxes levied by the school district would increase 12 cents per every $1,000 of assessed value, from $1.57 to $1.69. Taxes on a house with an assessed value of $265,000 would increase annually by $32.

Taxes would drop sharply after a $189 million bond, approved in 2006, is paid off in 2034. The CTE bond would be paid off four years later.

Won’t Medford be asking for another bond in a few years to build a new school?

Medford expects growing enrollment in the coming years, and already has been dealing with overcrowding in mostly elementary and middle schools. The Oregon Department of Education’s February report to the state Legislature shows that Medford’s 2017 class sizes exceeded the state median in grades three through six. Medford School District’s median classroom size overall was one student higher than the state median of 25 students per class.

The district conducted an enrollment forecast in January 2017, which projected an increase of 2,579 elementary students, the largest share of an overall estimated 4,269 additional students, from 2015 to 2035.

“It’s not like we’re seeing huge increases in numbers year after year at this point,” said district spokeswoman Natalie Hurd.

The district is trying other methods before planning to build new schools. It installed mobile modular classrooms to alleviate pressure at Hoover, Jackson, Lone Pine and Wilson elementary schools. Sixth Grade Academy, which launches in the fall, is also a way to move students from especially crowded elementary schools, Hurd said.

One of the long-term strategies of increasing CTE classes at North and South Medford high schools and online courses is to keep students from being routed into Central Medford High School, the district’s alternative school. The School Board and other district officials have indicated they would look to remodel Central Medford as a middle school and build another school in northeast Medford, but this remains more of an idea than a plan, Hurd said.

“We know we have to make the best use of the current space that we have before going to the public and asking for funds,” she said.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Kaylee Tornay at ktornay@rosebudmedia.com or 541-776-4497. Follow her on Twitter @ka_tornay.