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Voters reject $104 million Hermiston school bond

Board chair says regroup in order as district continues to grow

By Jayati Ramakrishnan

East Oregonian

Published on May 16, 2017 12:01AM

Last changed on May 17, 2017 12:24PM

Highland Hills first-grade teacher Madaline Laan checks students answers during a math class at Highland Hills Elementary School in Hermiston.

EO file photo

Highland Hills first-grade teacher Madaline Laan checks students answers during a math class at Highland Hills Elementary School in Hermiston.

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In unofficial returns Tuesday evening, out of 3,695 voters 59 percent opposed the bond and 41 percent approved.

The Hermiston school board campaigned heavily for the bond, which would have funded the construction of a new elementary school, new buildings for Rocky Heights and Highland Hills elementary schools, and significant expansion and upgrades to the high school. They were disappointed at the lopsided result.

“At this point, we need to step back, regroup and take a look at our options, if we have any, and go from there,” said Karen Sherman, Hermiston school board chair on Tuesday evening. Sherman and board members Bonnie Luisi and Jason Middleton ran unopposed and retained their seats, while a fourth seat drew no candidates. The county elections department is counting 260 write-in votes this week and will announce the winner when they are tallied. If the winner does not accept the position, the board will appoint a member.

In a statement about the bond failure, superintendent Fred Maiocco echoed Sherman’s sentiments.

“We were extremely disappointed to learn that voters did not approve the ballot measure,” Maiocco said. “The election results indicate that we have more work to do in educating the community about the challenges facing our growing district.”

He said the district and board would be looking for other solutions to the facility challenges facing the schools. During the campaign he said the alternative to new school buildings in the growing district was more modular classrooms.

Sherman said she had been optimistic about the bond’s success.

“I was expecting it to pass,” he said. “Not by a large margin, but I thought we’d run a good campaign and focused on the need for the kids.”

She said the district’s goals remain the same.

“We’ll continue to educate kids and do the best with what we have, but it’s going to be a real strain,” she said.

The district previously passed a $69.9 million bond in 2008 with 53 percent of the vote, which replaced Sunset and West Park elementary schools on their respective sites, and replaced Armand Larive Middle School at district property on Southwest 9th Street and Gettman Road.

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An earlier version of this story incorrectly explained the process for filling a school board seat with no candidates.



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