Three Umatilla County school districts got some extra help in their bond campaigns.
The state Department of Education awarded grants to 16 school districts as a part of the Oregon School Capital Improvement Matching Program, including the Echo, Athena-Weston and Milton-Freewater Unified districts.
All grants are contingent on each school district successfully passing a bond.
While all districts were evaluated by the department based on community poverty levels, school districts that submitted their grant applications during an early filing period were entered into a lottery.
The Athena-Weston School District literally won the lottery, joining five other districts in receiving a $4 million commitment.
“We are extremely happy that our district is eligible to receive this grant,” Athena-Weston interim superintendent Jim Reger said in a statement. “It’s a great boost to our efforts of getting our bond passed this May and making some great improvements to schools in both of our communities.”
The district wants to pair the grant with a $4 million to pay for things like security and maintenance improvements.
While they didn’t win any lotteries, Milton-Freewater and Echo also received $4 million commitments from the state.
The potential for a state grant further raises the stake for Milton-Freewater, which already received a $15 million commitment from a private foundation that is also contingent on passing a bond.
The school district is proposing a $12.5 million bond to a community that’s been averse to passing bonds in the past. But if the district is successful, Milton-Freewater would receive a $31.5 million windfall that would pay for a new elementary school, athletic fields and improvements to a district that has buildings well over a century old.
The Echo School District is seeking a $4 million bond.