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When Santiam Canyon Superintendent Todd Miller submitted paperwork to Linn County in February to place a $17.9 million bond on the ballot, there were 570 students in the district. Last week, there were 583.

“Even at a time of year where things usually stay stagnant in terms of students, we’re continuing to have growth in the region,” he said.

Student populations for the schools in Mill City and the surrounding areas in the district are expected to continue increasing, prompting school officials to think about the future.

The $17.9 million bond would levy a rate of $2.45 per $1,000 of assessed value.

“The big thing for us is the junior/senior high school building,” Miller said.

The current building was built in 1954, does not meet current safety standards and contains asbestos. According to Miller, experts have said that replacing the building would be a better bet than repairing it. Its roof will have to be replaced regardless of whether the bond passes, and Miller wonders if that would be a wise use of money.

“We’ll be putting $1-$2 million into a roof on a building that doesn’t add space or improve education quality in that school,” he said.

Schools across the district are running out of room as well. Santiam Elementary School had 310 students, grades K-sixth, in February, and according to Miller, there is no more classroom space. Students are also eating lunch as early as 10:30 a.m. to accommodate the large student body, grades K-12, that shares the cafeteria and to manage the day’s schedule.

“We hit the point where we’re out of classrooms,” he said. “We had to bring in modular classrooms for this year and teachers are sharing classrooms. It puts us in a spot where we have a problem on where we put classes and how we deal with growth.”

In 2017, the district formed a long-range plan committee that included community members and school staff. The committee was tasked with identifying infrastructure issues within the district and completed a facility analysis with the use of outside architects, engineers and school construction staff. The committee proposed the bond measure and the implementation of a bond oversight committee should it pass in May.

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The bond will be described on the ballot as improving safety, replacing schools and adding vocational classrooms. According to the documents Miller filed in February, funds would also go toward constructing a new cafeteria at the elementary school, office, library and auxiliary gym.

According to Miller, it's the first time that the Santiam Canyon School District has floated a bond measure since a measure failed nearly 10 years ago.

“We have a really positive problem in our area and that’s growth,” he said, noting that the district was up 50 students from last school year.

The district serves the communities of Mill City, Gates, Detroit, Idanha, Marion Forks and the Little North Fork. Additional community forums about the measure are expected in the coming weeks before the May 21 election but have yet to be scheduled. For more information on the forums, visit santiam.k12.or.us.

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