• February 1, 2016 


    Dear Key Communicators, 

    My last Key Communicator was written before the holidays. While it seems like a long time ago, between Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s we are just now entering the 2nd semester of the school year. I hope you had an excellent holiday season and that you and your family are enjoying all that winter brings in the Gorge. 

    The focus of the last Key Communicator was the District’s Long-Range Facility and Bond Planning and our progress toward fulfilling the promises made in our “20/20 Vision;” specifically the strategies aligned to Commitment #7: Targeting Human And Fiscal Resources Toward Achieving [the 20/20 Vision]. Since that message much has occurred in these two important areas. 

    Financial Audit
    The District received the highest praise on our external, annual financial audit for our stewardship of public resources in the 2014-15 school year. We had 0 (zero) findings, 0 (zero) corrections, and many, many commendations for the vast improvements we have initiated in ensuring all district resources are a) accounted for; b) managed appropriately and with integrity; and c) consistently utilized within the parameters set by the budget committee and school board. The audit was classified as “unmodified,” meaning the auditors’ positive findings are certain (or “unqualified”). 

    Long-Range Facilities & Potential Bond Planning
    As you know, this is our school district’s 150th anniversary. We have a proud history of excellent, well- supported schools that are intertwined with community life here in Hood River County. From excellent classroom instruction to community skate nights, from community education courses for all ages to youth and adult athletics, from community-based preschools to theater programs... our school buildings and athletic fields are integral to our quality of life here in Hood River County. 

    Since the last Key Communicator, we’ve held multiple “Facilities Planning Community Workgroup” meetings, community feedback sessions, board work sessions, and polled 300 residents from all regions of Hood River County to identify our short-term and long-term facility and field space needs. 

    To summarize:

    Polling and the Community Workgroup indicated a high level of support for: 

    • A bond that does NOT raise the tax rate;
    • Addressing needed repairs to roofs, HVAC/boilers, plumbing and electrical systems to ensure the long-term functioning of our schools:
      • Boiler (and related HVAC infrastructure) replacements at Parkdale, Hood River Middle, Westside, and HRV 
      • Plumbing system overhauls at Mid Valley, Parkdale, and Wy’east 
      • Full (or near-full) roof replacements at Westside, Mid Valley, and HRV
        • critical roof repairs at every other building
      • Significant electrical repair at Mid Valley, Parkdale, Wy’east, Hood River Middle, and HRV
    • Increasing student safety and security at all schools;
    • Increasing classroom technology for students;
    • Improving energy efficiency toward maximizing available general fund dollars to the classroom;
    • Providing new state-of-the-art science, engineering and math lab learning space at Wy’east Middle School;
    • Replacing, equipping, and furnishing May Street Elementary School (which turned 94-years old this year) on the same site, which will cost less to maintain and operate (see below); 
    • Repairing athletic fields and tracks, including those used most by community members (tracks: Wy’east, Hood River Middle, and HRV; athletic fields: Westside and HRV); and,
    • Upgrading school playgrounds at CascadeLocks, Parkdale, and Mid Valley Elementary Schools. 
    May Street Elementary is our oldest active school building and will require approximately $24 million in repairs to address deteriorating roofing and windows, a 120-year old boiler system and related HVAC infrastructure, new plumbing, electrical upgrades, entry and interior access renovations (ADA), etc. A cost-benefit analysis was conducted by an external architecture/design firm, which resulted in May St. being identified as in “critical” need of replacement. Simply put, May St. will cost more to maintain than it will to replace over the next 30 years. With the median age of our school facilities at 78-years old, it is important to recognize that operating expenses will continue to increase in older buildings over time, pulling available resources away from the classroom toward maintaining aging infrastructure. 
     
    Enrollment - there is a strong desire to prepare for projected enrollment increases. Factors that will either accelerate or suppress growth of school-aged children in our County include housing availability, housing affordability, land use restrictions, and the availability of jobs. Estimates are between 1-2% growth, mostly in the lower valley, but building significantly more classroom spaces when we have yet to see a real population surge is risky, expensive business. To conservatively address enrollment, the new May Street School (again, on the same site) will provide increased enrollment capacity for the short-term. If long-term growth actually becomes a reality, Westside, Mid Valley, and Hood River Middle School may require additional classroom structures. 
     
    Because of the limited space available to expand at HRMS without encroaching on the athletic field (and the architectural limitations associated with historical registry restrictions), we will need to employ a wait-and-see approach regarding any possible expansion. 
     
    Mid Valley was at capacity at the beginning of the school year, but we’ve had a fair number of enrollment drops since the beginning of school. Consequently, we are planning for short-term growth in the same manner as we have over the years at Westside and May St. - with a possible modular structure. Again, we will have to employ a wait-and-see stance regarding potential enrollment surges in the mid valley region. 
     
    I want to be sure to thank the 40+ members of the Facilities Planning Community Workgroup made up of folks from every region in the school district and staff from every school. Each member was engaged and did excellent work helping to identify the most pressing needs across the school district. If you are interested in reviewing reports, presentations, or notes from this series of meetings, head to our district webpage and click on “Long Range Facilities Planning.” 

     

    Progress Towards the 20/20 Vision 
     

    Did you know that 84.3% of Hood River Valley High School students graduated with full diplomas within 4-years in 2015? That’s one of the best graduation rates in the state! Such results are far from accidental... on the contrary, HRV educators: 

    1. Make sure students are safe, known, accepted and engaged in school. 
    2. Establish high expectations for student achievement with a wide-array of advanced and career-technical courses, post-secondary planning and advising, and a high number of opportunities for students to earn college credits while still at HRV; 
    3. Utilize research-based best practices by working collaboratively in Professional Learning Communities every Monday morning to design integrated STEM and humanities coursework and assessments and to monitor student progress toward important learning targets; 
    4. Use a data-based “early warning system” to identify and intervene with students who are at risk for academic failure as early as possible; 
    5. Seek out multiple perspectives of the families they serve and have initiated a school-based health center to keep students engaged at school; 
    6. Prioritize resources to both struggling students and toward advanced performing students; HRV students have access to a full range of AP and dual-credit classes (high school and college credit). 

    You should be extremely proud of not only our high school educators, but of our entire school district staff. High school graduation and college enrollment doesn’t start in 9th grade - it takes the whole village to support a child’s social and educational development throughout their school years. Congrats to our proud families, our community partners, and all of our HRCSD educators. 

    As always, please contact me with any questions or comments. 

    My best- Dan