BY DANIEL VOGEL
The Lake Oswego School Board unanimously voted to reject all current bids for the Lakeridge High School (LHS) Stadium project, and stated if the project is to go forward, $500,000 in funds must be raised by the community and the remaining money will be found from other sources in a board meeting on Tuesday, May 6.
On Monday, May 5 The Lake Oswego School Board met to discuss potential improvements made to the LHS stadium. The additions would include a canopy over the student section, 600 more seats and a press box.
Community parents, LOSD staff members, LOHS students and LHS students gave public testimony for more than two hours in support or defense of the stadium, and the entire LHS lacrosse team made a late appearance.
Originally the project was estimated to cost about $1.25 million, but after more aspects were added to the project and re-bidding increased costs, the project is now estimated to cost about $2.2 million. The district has already spent $200,000 in architectural fees and litigation.
Funding could potentially come from a Construction Excise Tax fund intended for capital improvements but limited to only $750,000; a General Obligation Bond approved by voters that would be paid for by a dedicated tax levy and could include other building improvements; from the general fund, which includes teacher salaries and operating costs; or by private fundraising, or by a combination of all methods.
Before the public testimony section of the meeting, the school board seemed evenly split in terms of the project, with three members of the board in support and three members in opposition.
Board member Bob Barman was the most supportive of the project. “I’ve been a little disturbed. In my 28 years, I’ve never seen an issue so divide our community,” he said, noting the split in Lake Oswego on the issue. “We go to the same churches, we go to the same synagogues, we go to the same restaurants,” he said, and characterized the issue as one pertaining to real estate values on the south side of the lake.
School board member John Wendland stated that he’s “in complete support of the project.” However, like school board member Patti Zebrowski, he noted that funding the project could be an issue, as the Construction Excise Tax, which would normally pay for such capital improvements, wasn’t adequate to cover the entire project. Wendland stated that it’s the district’s priority to be financially responsible because “75 percent of members in our community don’t have students in our schools,” before asking that the project be reduced in costs to less than $2 million.
Member Liz Hartman agreed with the stadium project, but did not wish to give her full opinion before seeing the opinions of the other board members and the opinions of community members. In terms of fundraising, she felt that the potential “$800,000 was very doable,” but requested that the project be delayed.
The board member most strongly in opposition to the project was Patti Zebrowski. “I’m not comfortable with the costs,” she said. “The project costs ballooned and I don’t know another word for it.” She made an analogy to her own home, and stated that if bids for an addition to her house more than doubled, she doubts that she would continue with the project.
She also noted the continuing water damage problems at Oak Creek and the Lakeridge Junior High earth movement problems as more important issues to address. “We have many, many, many wants but limited resources,” Zebrowski said. However, she was receptive to creating a bond measure to fund the project alongside other improvements.
Many LOHS students attended the meeting to voice their opposition to the potential improvements. Senior Emily Wolfram noted that more important things should be prioritized, such as obligations to repairs at the elementary schools and at the junior highs, and stated that “it would be irrational to proceed” in lieu of these pressing issues.
LOHS Senior Jaime Zimmerman pointed out that the stadium project mainly doesn’t benefit students, and lauded her calculus teacher Mr. Dodson for grading in-depth in the face of huge class sizes. Senior Maddie McMurray agreed and said that it shouldn’t be done while teacher cuts are possible across the board.
Senior Blaine Danielson asked the board “how can we afford a new stadium when we’ve closed three schools?” to much applause.
The entire Lakeridge lacrosse team arrived halfway into the scheduled public comment section of the meeting, having come directly from practice, still sweaty and in pads, carrying their lacrosse sticks and helmets. Captain Jared Bauman stated outside the meeting that they had all come of their own accord, and came to “support the building of the stadium and canopy.”
“It will encourage the community to support events,” he said, as well as noting the parity issue between the two schools. “I think building the stadium and canopy will provide benefits to the community. Sure, it’s costly at the moment. But it’ll increase property costs.”
Realtor Karen McLaughlin argued that the project could increase property values south of the lake, stating that property values between the south side and the north side of the lake are at “about a $75,000 difference.” She said, “If you continue to put off the project, this will continue.”
Other parents stated that the district is continuing to ignore the structural needs of its elementary and junior high schools, estimated to be at about $25 million over the next 10 years. Still other parents highlighted the district’s lack of support for technical extracurriculars, continuing growth in class size and the potential for financial obligations related to Title IX complaints against filed against the district pertaining to unequal facilities between the LOHS softball and baseball teams.