After 18 months of work, members of the Facilities Master Planning Committee presented the Comprehensive Facilities Master Plan for 2015-2025 to the Board of Education at its Regular June Meeting.

Since its inception in October of 2013, the Hermiston School Community Facility Master Planning Committee (FMPC) convened regularly to fulfill the obligation of drafting a comprehensive facilities master plan. The committee commissioned multiple in-house and third-party reports, inspected district facilities, and carefully evaluated multiple artifacts in order to compile the plan in the 18 months’ time.

The following findings and recommendations will serve instrumental as the Hermiston Board of Education and greater community identify strategies to address growth and infrastructure needs for its public schools over the coming decade.

  • The greatest near-term challenge identified by the FMPC is current and future student growth projected over the coming decade. Forecasted as “most probable” by a recently-commissioned population projection study from Portland State University, the district is poised to see a growth of nearly 800 students by 2023. Although the 2008 Bond Program replaced three of the district’s most aged schools (West Park Elementary, Sunset Elementary, and Armand Larive Middle School), notable additional capacity was not realized other than that gained by the increased footprint of the new campuses. As a result, the district currently utilizes 24 modular classrooms to serve the needs of its growing student population, which is four more than were needed prior to the 2008 bond. Based on enrollment growth projections, if a solution for additional permanent capacity is not implemented, it is projected that 56 modular classrooms will be required, where nearly 1100 students would be served in portable facilities.
  • A comprehensive facility condition analysis revealed that despite an outstanding maintenance and upkeep program, aged infrastructure across the district’s three oldest campuses will pose financial hardships over the coming decade. Rocky Heights Elementary School (53 years old), Highland Hills Elementary (35 years old), and Sandstone Middle School (20 years old) are all showing signs of either failing infrastructure or core components. Roofs, mechanical units, and utility mechanisms, although well maintained, have outlived most of their useful lives and will need replaced or refurbished over the coming decade. As the Board and community review cost-benefit analysis, as recommended by the engineer study, it may prove more cost effective to replace the oldest two campuses rather than renovate, as was the case in 2008 for the district’s three most-aged schools.
  • Safety and security accommodations, as well as concerns, were thoughtfully addressed in an independent safety audit performed by the Hermiston Police Department. The district’s newest campuses, as well as safety protocols imposed district-wide (e.g. cameras, access control, some traffic segregation) have provided improved measures to ensure student, staff, and visitor safety. However, both Rocky Heights and Highland Hills elementary schools, due to their design, age, and lack of life-safety alert systems, are inadequate to meet current safety standards.
  • Paying for new school campuses, additions, renovations, and property acquisition needs will serve challenging as the Board and community will have to wrestle with current debt, future needs, and only a moderate growth in real market values. The district’s outstanding debt of ~$85M weighs heavily with a ~$4/$1,000 tax rate. Although the anticipated rate is expected to gradually decrease over the coming years, significant tax rate relief is not anticipated until 2027.

The FMP committee strongly encouraged district leadership and the Board of Education to thoroughly review the data and recommendations contained within the comprehensive document. A growing student population, aging infrastructure, safety and security needs, and mechanisms by which to pay for identified solutions, will no doubt require prompt and deliberate action after significant community engagement has been accomplished.

The Comprehensive Facility Master Plan document and the reports referenced may be found on the district web site under Facility Planning Committee and Reports.