Frequently Asked Questions

We’ve put together the most common questions asked about the 2008 construction bond.

Q.  How many students do you currently have?
A.  Just over 39,000 students. We’re the second largest school district in Oregon.

Q. How big is the Salem-Keizer School District?
A. It covers more than 172 square miles of Marion and Polk counties.

Q. What’s the projected enrollment over the next five years?
A. Current projections estimate Salem-Keizer will have an additional 1,300 students by 2012.

Q. Does Salem-Keizer have a plan or direction on improving academic achievement?
A. Absolutely.  Our schools and staff focus their work on the goals in our annual strategic plan.  Currently we are focused on improving how we track student progress; developing research-based, common instructional curriculum; recruiting and retaining highly qualified staff; providing professional development opportunities for staff to improve their teaching methods and instruction; and streamlining our central support services to provide better, more efficient levels of service for our students.

Q. What new curriculum has Salem-Keizer adopted in the last five years?
A. We have implemented new research-based curriculum and textbooks in the following areas: secondary science, secondary social studies, elementary math, secondary math, and READ 180 (a program to help struggling readers).

Q.  How do Salem-Keizer students rate on the national SATs (college entrance exam)?
A.  Our students continue to score above the national average and in line with the state average.

Q.  What is Salem-Keizer doing to reduce its dropout rate?
A.  Our dropout rate for high school students has slightly decreased or remained about the same from year to year.  This is an area of focus for our schools, and we continue to recover students who have left and help them to finish their education.  In 2007-08, we helped close to 500 students return to school and graduate.

Q. Does Salem-Keizer receive grants or private donations?
A. Yes. Salem-Keizer staff actively pursues private funds and grants to supplement state funding and provide a broad spectrum of educational opportunities for our students.  We have received donations from organizations such as the Meyer Memorial Trust, Salem Hospital Foundation, Stupski Foundation, Windermere Foundation, Milbank Memorial Fund, Northwest Health Foundation, Siletz Tribal Charitable Contribution Fund, American Forest Foundation, and Wal-Mart Foundation.

Q. How many portable classrooms do we have in the district?
A. Salem-Keizer currently has 156 portable classrooms due to lack of space in the main school buildings.

Q. Will the new schools proposed in the construction bond eliminate any portable classrooms?
A. No. The new schools will address future enrollment growth and crowding coming to Salem-Keizer.  We will continue to need our portable classrooms to maintain adequate space.

Q. Why have we not kept up with deferred maintenance of buildings?
A. Since 2003, Salem-Keizer has not had the funding to do major repairs and updates needed by our schools.  Oregon went through a tough economic phase, and our funding was directed toward protecting instructional programs and teaching positions from cuts while major upkeep of our schools was deferred.

Q. If you said the original $500+ million amount was critical, why did the bond proposal get reduced to $242 million?
A. Salem-Keizer did a two-year in-depth analysis of our school facilities and future enrollment growth.  Based on this, more than $500 million in key repairs, renovations, updates and need for new schools was identified.  We presented this information to our community in early January and February 2008.  The feedback from the community said they understood the need, but felt $500 million was too much.  They asked our Board to focus on repairs and updates, and scale down the number of new schools.  The School Board kept all the most urgent repairs and updates on the construction bond proposal and reduced the number of new schools to four (one middle school and three elementary schools).

Q. What will this cost an average taxpayer in the community?
A. The bond cost is estimated at approximately $1.21 per $1,000 of assessed home value over the life of the bond, which is 31 years or less.  The average assessed home value in Marion County is $138,000; the average assessed home value in Polk County is $157,000. Passage of this bond means no increase in the property tax rate, only the number of years over which the payments are made. Why?  As the current debt from previous construction bonds is paid off, the new debt will take its place and retain the same level of payment.  As new residents move to Salem-Keizer they will help share the cost of this construction bond.

Q. How will this bond be managed?
A. The bond projects will be managed by Salem-Keizer staff, and overseen by an independent, citizen bond oversight committee and our School Board.

Q: How can bond construction funds be spent?
A. Construction funds, by law, must be kept separate from other school district funds which pay for daily operation of our schools. Bond funds are placed in a special category and can be spent only on projects associated with the bond approved by voters in November 2008.

Q. Where will these new schools go?
A.  Salem-Keizer staff will recommend locations for new schools based on enrollment growth projections and availability of appropriate land.  The School Board will gather community input before determining the new school locations.

Q. Can we adjust school boundaries instead of building new schools?
A. Salem-Keizer’s growth is too much, and the need for space can’t be accommodated with current schools.

Q: Does the district have educational specifications for construction of new schools?
A. Educational specifications are a combination of construction and program standards. The district develops educational specifications to give architects a clear understanding of the district’s construction and learning program expectations to make sure those requirements are included and properly interpreted in a project’s design. Construction standards may provide information like the size of a classroom or the type of flooring to be installed. Programmatic standards may provide information about the types of things that need to be in a classroom to support learning, such as sinks in a science lab. The district’s current educational specifications will be updated as part of the 2008 school construction bond implementation process.

Q. How were the projects on the 2008 construction bond decided on?
A. Salem-Keizer started with an in-depth analysis of our current facilities and future enrollment growth. This information was put together into a comprehensive report for our community, and included the most critical school facility needs.  More than $500 million in issues were identified ranging from roof repairs to new schools needed to alleviate overcrowding.  Salem-Keizer asked the community if $500 million was possible to fund, and our parents, staff, neighbors and business partners said to reduce the number of new schools (dealing with future growth for the next 3 years instead of more), and keep all the renovations, repairs and updates needed by our schools. Through this community feedback, Salem-Keizer’s School Board approved placing the $242.1 million construction bond on the November 2008 ballot.

Q: Is there a process for hiring the architects and others needed to build the bond projects?
A. State law provides strict processes the school district must follow to hire firms to plan and construct the bond projects. The district’s goal is to contract with the most qualified candidates at the best price. There are some situations where the district is required to contract with the lowest bidder. The district is developing strategies to allow the maximum number of firms to compete for the bond work.

Q. What did the 1998 Construction Bond include?
A. In November 1998, our community approved a $177.1 million construction bond. These funds, collected from property taxes, paid for renovations and repairs at a majority of our schools; and built 10 new schools, including West Salem High School. Through good fiscal management and the work of our community oversight committee, projects were completed on time and under budget.