Dennis Zullo II, project manager and maintenance supervisor for Klamath County School District, walked through the halls of Henley Middle School’s new classrooms on Monday, going up near the old 1949 school.
Zullo pointed out different aspects of the $1.12 million project, a price tag to include new furnishings and Smart TV technology.
He anticipates the completion of the four-classroom building, which includes a science laboratory, by August or before the start of the 2019-2020 school year. It will hold upwards of 140 students, or 35 per classroom, according to Renee Ferguson, director of business services at the district.
“Something a bit more modern and something a bit safer for kids to use,” Zullo said. “It’ll have LED lighting, it will have energy-efficient heating, energy-efficient windows.”
The new classrooms at Henley Middle School are part of a list of 10 projects on the district’s maintenance list over the course of the next 10 weeks.
Projects include the following: replacement of the boiler, seismic upgrades, and modular demolitions at Henley Middle School; drainage improvements at Bonanza schools, replacement of the Henley High School’s gymnasium roof; renovations to the Big Gym at Chiloquin Junior/Senior High School, tennis courts and a ramp at Mazama High; drainage improvements to Shasta Elementary. Construction of eight classrooms at Stearns Elementary is planned to begin this fall.
Zullo said plans are in place to demolish modular buildings at Peterson, Brixner, and Henley Middle School, but will keep three modulars in case they are needed during the upcoming school year.
“It’s more cost-effective if we demo them,” Zullo said. “We’re going to be able to recycle the steel frames that are underneath it, so we can put that against the KCSD general fund.”
The addition of new classrooms at Henley Middle and Stearns Elementary this fall aligns with the district’s ongoing aim to be ready for increased enrollment. This year, the county school district experienced an increase of around 100 students, Ferguson said. An estimated 25 more students are anticipated to join the district for the 2019-2020 school year.
The need for more classrooms and more teachers is also reflected in the Klamath County School District’s budget, adopted last Thursday.
The $108 million budget funds 4.5 more teaching staff, money to buy textbooks, increase mental health services, and adds on a $2 raise for paraprofessionals who work with special education students at the district, while keeping all existing programs in place.
The newly added teaching positions will complement the district’s boost in enrollment by 25 students and is slated to keep class sizes down.
Henley Middle School’s new classrooms, which add more teachable space, were budgeted for in 2017 through bond debt issued and sold, a standard procedure for districts as well as municipalities, according to Ferguson.
Ferguson told the Herald and News that funding for the Henley Middle School project is part of an overall $4.1 million in issued debt service approved by the board in March 2017 for the 2018 construction of new classrooms at Peterson Elementary, and the 2019 Henley Middle School and Stearns Elementary construction.
“We go out and we work with a bond underwriter and our debt is issued out on the market, and they’re called full faith and credit obligations,” Ferguson said. “And then those bonds get sold and we get the proceeds and we repay the bond holders over 20 years. A lot of government entities use full faith and credit obligations.
“It’s like taking out a mortgage but it’s over 20 years,” she added.
The debt service issued is not to be confused with the bond that built the new Henley Elementary School, Ferguson confirmed.
“Those were general obligation bonds and those have to go to the voters,” Ferguson said. “If the voters approve it, then it gets paid for by an additional assessment on property tax.”
Ferguson emphasized the additional being classrooms built are also not the result of any increase in assessment and property tax.
“The board actually approached administration, it’s been a couple of years ago, and had interest in replacing some modules that were deteriorating,” Ferguson said.
Added staff positions will be implemented at the following schools: Ferguson Elementary, Brixner Junior High, Falcon Heights, Henley High School, Lost River Junior-Senior High and Mazama High School.
Also part of the budget increase is the addition of a special education coordinator position, and an increase in stipends for those commuting to and from Chiloquin and Gearhart schools.
About $2.5 million of the $4 million in funding from the Oregon Legislature is tied to PERS costs.