BRIDGEPORT A temporary fix in the 1970s to add more space to Bridgeport Elementary School has been getting worn down, prompting the school district to ask voters next month to approve a $3.9 million bond issue.
Stretched out over 18 years, the measure would cost property owners $2.12 per $1,000 of assessed value per year. The total cost of the project is $8.5 million, but nearly 90 percent of the funding for construction will come from the state.
If the measure passes, four portable buildings added on to the school in 1977 will be torn down to make way for 16 classrooms, a music room, computer lab and multi-purpose room, as well as an updated kitchen that will provide breakfast and lunch for all 820 students district-wide.
Ballots will be mailed Jan. 24 and must be postmarked by Feb. 11, or turned in at the drop box in front of City Hall, 1206 Columbia Ave., by 8 p.m.
“They’re not intended to be permanent structures, and when you take a temporary building and you use it for 35, 36 years, they’re going to wear out,” Superintendent Scott Sattler said of the portables.
The original building contains a library, gymnasium and 10 classrooms. Three surrounding portable buildings house four classrooms each, and the district offices, a multi-purpose room and a kitchen occupy the fourth portable.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers bricked in the portables to look like the main building, but Sattler said more space and a greater level of safety is needed for its 440 students.
“When you come up to our building, it looks fairly new but it’s really portable buildings,” Sattler said. “I do know that our enrollment is growing in leaps and bounds. Over the last five years, we’ve added more than 100 kids to our school district.”
He likened the portables to an old mobile home with spongy floors, a leaky roof and mold and mildew. He also noted that, in terms of safety, there are too many entrances around all the buildings.
Once complete, the building would have a main entrance and multiple fire exits, the computer lab would be moved out of the library and electrical wiring upgraded to handle the current technology, and the total number of classrooms would grow from 22 to 26 to accommodate projected growth.
In addition, the covered playground, which is currently located in the middle of the buildings and only has a swing set, would be moved and some new equipment added.
“We want a modern play facility for kids,” Sattler said. “We don’t have any climbing apparatus or anything for kids. We have what’s called a mega mansion – a wood structure on the north side of the building that’s 20 years old – and wood doesn’t last forever.”
Bridgeport’s last building improvements were at the high school, which was rebuilt in the 1990s, but only for a capacity of 165 students. Today, the school has 230 students. The middle school was built in the 1950s and received a new roof and heating, ventilating and air conditioning system several years ago.
In Pateros, voters turned down a $7.25 million bond request in November for a number of capital improvement projects for the school. Proposals included an addition to the elementary school, a multi-purpose room, more parking and more. More than 50 percent voted in favor of the bond, but it required a supermajority of 60 percent to pass.
Superintendent Lois Davies said the school district has been conducting phone surveys and talking with residents to get a sense of what they liked or didn’t like about the proposed projects.
“There is a lot of support and a lot of positive feedback in what people saw in the bond. They felt that a lot of the projects were worthwhile,” Davies said. “In our feedback, we have heard consistently that ‘We are proud of the school.’ But $2.08 was more than they were able to feel confident of supporting at this time.”
The school district may seek another bond or a capital levy in the future, but details such as when and how much haven’t been determined yet.
Davies said needs like new flooring, windows and boilers are “still there, but we’re going to take our time.”