Eagle Point schools look to spend $9M in ESSER funds
The Eagle Point School District 9 Board is considering approval of two major projects with money from the American Rescue Plan.
A new HVAC system at Eagle Point High School and a new classroom building at Table Rock Elementary School were discussed last week during a board work session. While the HVAC proposal won’t make it onto the board’s next meeting agenda for April 27, the Table Rock proposal will.
Of the $9 million in Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds likely to be approved by the Oregon Department of Education, $6 million would be used for Table Rock and the high school.
“We’re actually really blessed and excited to be able to use some of this COVID-19 relief money for something that we just don’t have the ability to use in our general budget,” said Emily McIntire, chairwoman of the school board, who touted the district’s business services official, Nick Hogan.
He noted Eagle Point schools have several small projects in the works, but the Table Rock facility and high school HVAC system are, “by far, the largest two.”
Table Rock Elementary officials would like an 8,000-square-foot, six-classroom building, which would partly be used to house a new pre-K program called Kindergarten Transition.
“That’s our highest-need students, but we don’t have space,” Hogan said. “If we’re looking for space, I’d rather have a little more than less. (Table Rock is) kind of hurting for room there.”
McIntire said parents are in need of child care, and a new facility at Table Rock would help with that issue.
“For the school to put on pre-K on the campus, where the kids would get going right into kindergarten, I just think it’s an excellent place for early learning and a great place to transition for early kindergarten,” she said.
The proposed faculty would be factory-built by the Aumsville-based Modern Building systems before being shipped to Table Rock, where it would be installed in sections.
“It’s much more cost-effective,” Hogan said. “It’s about half the cost of a normal building.”
Another building, much like the one to be installed by Modern Building Systems, already exists at Table Rock Elementary, Hogan added.
Eagle Point High School has been in need of HVAC system improvements for a while, according to Hogan.
“It's been a known need for a long time, and now that we have some ESSR funding, we would love to do the job in the near future,” he said.
If installed, however, the new HVAC system would not be hospital-grade.
“It’s way more complicated and expensive,” Hogan said. “We would install regular filters that certainly help out — like help relieve the smoke in the air — but not the same level as a hospital.”
“The focus is to provide better conditions to the classroom environment to enhance the overall student learning experience,” Heather Marinucci, principal of EPHS, wrote in an email. “This is a substantial project with plenty of details to discuss as we move forward, and I'm pleased to be part of that conversation.”
McIntire stressed the urgency of the project, saying, “it needs to happen.”
“The HVAC is not a real glamorous thing to have to replace, but it’s necessary, and it’s very expensive,” she said.
Hogan noted that ESSER funds — part of the American Rescue Plan signed by President Joe Biden last year — can be used only until 2024.
“It would definitely be easier if they gave us a longer window,” Hogan said.
His comments come as the Medford School District Board is set to approve a letter to Oregon’s delegation to Washington, D.C., asking Congress to extend the timeline for using ESSER funding.
McIntire is looking forward to further board discussion on the two projects.
“These are all things that will benefit each of the kids in our district, whether immediately or in the long term,” she said.
Reach reporter Kevin Opsahl at 541-776-4476 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @KevJourno.