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The existing St. Helens High School Campus. Some buildings have not seen upgrades since the 1950s, others since the 1980s.

In November, St. Helens residents will vote on a measure for a bond to raise funds for an upgrade and remodel of St. Helens High School.

The bond proposal, issued at an increase of $1.25 per $1,000 of assessed value, would raise $65 million for the remodel project.

The request comes three years after a similar bond measure, measure 5-263, was approved by 56% of the voters in 2016 for the new St. Helens Middle School, which raised $49 million. That bond measure did not increase the tax rate, as it was possible to finance the project at the same tax rate as before--$1.38 per $1,000 of home value—due to old bonds retiring, as The Chronicle reported in October of 2016.

If passed, the funds will be added to the $2 million saved from construction projects of Plymouth High School and St. Helens Middle School, and the $3.5 million from the bond measure passed in 2016 of funds reserved exclusively for the High School.

The total funds will finance the upgrade of fire and security systems, building systems, as well as classrooms and learning spaces.

“We want to see the school connected for safety and security reasons,” Scot Stockwell, St. Helens School District (SHSD) Superintendent, said. “There’s 80 plus doors in that building, which is not good.”

Improving learning spaces will also include upgrades to high school career and vocational training labs to aid the school in forming an automotive career pathway and a medical pathway so that students can come out of high school as certified mechanics or receive a certified nursing certificate, according to Stockwell.

Scot Stockwell, St. Helens School District (SHSD) Superintendent, said research into whether or not the community would support a bond measure came in the fall of 2018, when SHSD hired a polling agency to see which of three scenarios the community would support.

The scenarios in the options were offered on a “sliding scale.” One option was to fix just the classrooms, another to renovate everything except for the fields, and then a final one to do a full renovation.

“What the information polled was that the community would support a bond if it was a complete upgrade or renovation of the high school, and they didn’t want to do the short add-on fixes of small individual pieces,” Stockwell said.

Stockwell also said it is cheaper to renovate the existing high school than to tear it down and rebuild a campus, like what is happening at the middle school. A lot of that is due to the buildings themselves being harder to tear down than they were at the old middle school.

“When the middle school was built, the coding at that time, it didn’t have strong bones based on fire code and all sorts of things. So it would’ve cost us as much or more to renovate that building than it was to do what we’re doing,” Stockwell said.

If the ballot measure is passed in November, Stockwell said it will likely be about three more years before students see a new and improved campus, as that is similar to the timeframe for the completion of the new middle school.


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