BY HERB SWETT
For the Keizertimes
The Salem-Keizer School Board voted to repurpose Hazel Green and Rosedale elementary schools because of their declining enrollments and the financial burden the administration has said continuing them as schools would place on the district.
The vote to repurpose the two elementary schools (Hazel Green is in the McNary High School attendance area, and Rosedale is in South Salem) came after several members of the audience spoke against discontinuing them as schools. Objections focused on Rosedale, with Hazel Green mentioned briefly by only two speakers, neither of whom was directly associated with Hazel Green. Speakers referred to Rosedale’s accomplishments, and some doubted that repurposing would help the district economically.
Superintendent Sandy Husk said that because of the current shortfall of $20 million to $25 million, with more losses expected in the next few years, the district has been forced to make cuts in several areas. She recommended approval.
“It is with great sorrow that we are recommending repurposing,” she said.
The vote for repurposing was 4-3, with directors Jim Green, Ron Jones and Jeff Faville voting no. Green said keeping the small-school environment was desirable. Jones repeated his objections to closing schools soon after others were recently opened. Faville said closure would add to crowding problems at nearby schools.
In other business, a request for the Salem-Keizer School District to help the city of Keizer extend an urban renewal plan for four years was tabled Tuesday night by the School Board to its January meeting.
The city and the Keizer Urban Renewal Agency are seeking the extension because a default by one property owner on a local improvement district (LID) plan payment within Keizer Station jeopardizes Keizer, which secured the LID with the full faith and credit of the city.
If the plan is extended, the city and other local taxing jurisdictions would continue to forgo a portion of the property taxes calculated on the increase in value within the Keizer North River Road Economic Development Area during the four years. For agreeing to the extension, the city would pay the other taxing districts, over the four years, the amounts they would forgo during the extension.
Mike Wolfe, school district chief operating officer, reported that, after meetings between Keizer and district officials, the district staff recommended board approval of the city’s request.
Green said that, because funding levels for the district in the next four years were uncertain, he was concerned that the repayments from the city might not be adequate to meet the district’s financial needs.
Susan Gahlsdorf, city finance director, said of the proposed repayment schedule, “We’re working to make you whole up front.”
Director Chuck Lee, whose region includes Keizer, asked whether reimbursements could change if district revenues fall. Gahlsdorf said that they could not, but that one possibility was for an agreement that would be tentative in case revenues fall.
Director Nancy MacMorris-Adix said she would not support such an agreement without repayments being 100 percent. Wolfe said the district and city could restructure the deal “so that what you like is kept.”
Lee, who said after the board’s November meeting that the parties should be able to work out a satisfactory deal, said after Tuesday’s meeting that he was increasingly optimistic now that the district staff had studied the proposal.
The board also:
• Rejected a proposal to establish a Montessori school. The district’s Charter Review Committee had recommended a vote against it because of various financial concerns.
• Heard Chair Rick Kimball announce the retirement of Debi Garrigues as board secretary effective the end of the year and introduce Kristy Brooks-Lathers as her successor.
• Approved personnel actions that included employment of Christina Lilly as a contract full-time counselor at Keizer Elementary School and Michele Condello as a less than half-time teacher at Forest Ridge Elementary School, and retirement of Marie Cramer as an advanced mathematics teacher at McNary.