School Board discusses leaks, dress code

By Sarah Brown
Lebanon Local

Lebanon School Board members discussed a gamut of issues, including facilities maintenance, dress codes, a dropout recovery program, behavior problems in classrooms and summer school at their monthly meeting April 13.
Supt. Jennifer Meckley updated the board regarding concerns about leaking roofs at Lacomb Elementary.
At last month’s board meeting, parents and students of Lacomb Elementary complained to the board about the school’s leaking roofs, buckets in classrooms catching dripping water, signs of mildew and a musty smell.
Lacomb Principal Tim Geoghegan indicated in a letter to parents and the community that the recent failed facility bond would have helped address problematic roofs in schools across the district.
Responding to recent weather that caused dripping in some classes, Geoghegan said, “there is no mold or mildew, nor any safety concerns for students and staff, but certainly the presence of dripping water and the musty smell of wet ceiling tiles (since removed) was an unacceptable distraction to teaching and learning.”
A fifth grade class that was experiencing the most problems has since been moved to a better classroom, he said, then added that “the roof replacement at Lacomb has been our district’s top maintenance priority.” The Lebanon Community School District determined they had enough money set aside to address the roof problem and the project can be scheduled after a bidding process is complete.
“The process of obtaining a new roof at Lacomb is moving forward, but the timeline for when it will be completed is to be determined,” Geoghegan continued in his letter. “I am confident that we will share that information with you as soon as it’s available. Meanwhile, hardworking members of our facilities team are awaiting a break in the weather so they can safely get up there and make the necessary repairs.”
At this month’s board meeting, a memo from Business Director William Lewis III stated that the $16 million deferred maintenance general obligation (GO) bond rejected by voters in May 2022 (which would have included an additional $4.2 million in state grants for deferred maintenance projects) would have been earmarked for Lacomb’s roof and other failing systems in the district.
“GO bonds are the primary mechanism school districts use to pay for major deferred maintenance projects,” Lewis wrote. “The district has millions of dollars in deferred maintenance and failing systems and no funding source to pay for them.”
In a financial breakdown supplied by Lewis last year, the district had a general plan from that May 2022 bond to set aside only $740,000 for paint, HVAC/boiler, kitchen, site-based improvements, and safety and security improvements at Lacomb Elementary. Yet this year project management company HMK quoted LCSD a $1.7-$2 million price tag just to fix the Lacomb roof.
Board Chair Tom Oliver did say, though, that the intent of the bond was to “essentially buy us another 10 years with the facilities we have” until the current bond is paid off, with an intent at that point to get another bond for the next 30 years.
Lewis stated in his memo that LCSD has been building up a small capital projects fund for major maintenance emergencies to the tune of about $1.5 million in savings expected by the end of June, and he confirmed with this reporter that the full amount will be applied toward the roof repair.
According to Lewis’ memo, the work can only be completed next summer while the weather is dry. Meanwhile, LCSD is researching options to protect the roofing until then, the most expensive being a full spray coating quoted at $300,000.
“In some cases, Lacomb is not the worst roof in the district. It’s just the one that we have heard about,” Oliver noted.
In other business, Meckley gave a report about dress codes after a parent at January’s board meeting raised concerns on the subject.
The parent, Lindsay Pehrson, indicated students were going to school in Spanx and bralettes, a presentation of self that might make male teachers uncomfortable.
LCSD’s dress code policy states dress and grooming rests primarily with the students and parents, but they are expected to dress such that they do not disrupt the learning environment or threaten the safety or health of other students.
At Seven Oak Middle School, a handbook indicates staff might “coach” students to make better wardrobe decisions, and they might be asked to change their clothing if considered inappropriate. “Progressive consequences” may be applied if problematic attire is continually being worn, the handbook states.
The Lebanon High School handbook provides guidelines, such as: nothing obscene, disrespectful or disruptive; no reference to alcohol, violence, etc.; no trench coats; “clothing with insufficient covering deemed inappropriate, disruptive or unsafe;” and no sagging pants, hoods, pajamas and tank tops.
The handbook includes verbiage indicating students might be asked to change or modify their clothing if deemed inappropriate, and “persistent violations of the dress code will be considered willful disobedience.”
LHS administrators have told Meckley they have not received any complaints about enforcement of the policy, and “most instances start with a conversation and the vast majority of students comply. In the rare event that they don’t comply, it is recorded as insubordination or willful disobedience.”
Also, administrators take into consideration if, when and how a student will be approached about their dress, including consideration of the students’ dignity, emotional state of mind at the moment and other such concerns that might affect a student’s well-being.
Staff must also consider a student’s access to clothing, some concerns are subjective, females and marginalized groups tend to be the impacted population by a public’s perception of their clothing, and students have a right to free expression and a right not to be discriminated against.
“We try to put dress codes in to enforce equity, but the policies often affect groups of students differently,” Meckley said, referring to girls and students of color. “In Oregon we are pretty vague on dress codes. I’ve talked to a lot of superintendents in the regions. Our list is pretty expansive and in Oregon the dress codes are becoming more vague. Like, basically, cover up your front, your back, your sides.”
Board member Tammy Schilling said she’d like to know how inappropriate dress affects a learning environment. Meckley responded that she wouldn’t know how to measure something like that.
Board member Richard Borden said the standard is a very subjective and very broad, and it’s not enforced consistently at any school.
Oliver said he understood the reasoning behind the district’s stance on the issue, “but I feel like at some point we have a duty to set the bar at a certain level in all areas of everything that we do.”
“I see things that as an employer, if the student is learning that kind of behavior in their workplace – that’s what school is – then we’re doing them a disservice because they show up to work and they look like that,” he said.
Ultimately the board asked Meckley to determine if students dressed inappropriately is truly a distraction to learning, and to consider creating an anonymous poll among staff and students to gauge their perceptions on the matter.

The school board also:
♦ Heard from Meckley that LCSD has contracted with Graduation Alliance to implement an online Dropout Recovery program this school year. The program allows dropout students to return to school before they turn 22 for an opportunity to earn their diploma through an alternative route. So far, 13 students are enrolled, some of whom are up to 21 years old.
She said there is no cost to LCSD for the program, but the district can receive 15% of ADM (average daily membership) funds. LCSD entered into the contract prior to learning that it must first be approved by the board. The board unanimously approved the contract.
♦ Approved the adoption of Reveal Math from McGraw Hill for grades K-5.
♦ Heard from Human Resource Director Kim Grousbeck that LCSD is one of the only districts in the states to offer a mentoring program for classified staff and, as such, has been asked to present and train at two different conferences.
♦ Borden asked Meckley to place a presentation on a future agenda regarding schedule changes at the high school, namely that the high school will implement a block schedule. Currently students attend their classes daily, but block scheduling will allow them to attend each class two or three days a week for a longer period of time.
♦ Heard from Martin concerning “severe” behaviors in classrooms, particularly in a K-2 class and 3-5 class.
He said Cascades and Green Acres implemented a social emotional learning (SEL) class that seems to be working really well, and wondered if it could be implemented in other schools that are experiencing “critical” problems with behavior that include running, choking, screaming, throwing, swearing, stabbing, biting, ripping things up, stabbing things into walls, hurting others, pushing, throwing chairs at people, hiding and running away.
“If we don’t get a grip on this, we are contributing to the longterm problem,” Martin said.
♦ Heard from Meckley that, as of yet, there is no funding for summer school this year. COVID relief funds helped support a robust summer school program during the last few years, she said. The state might release some funds for summer school this year, but the district won’t know until mid-May.
“So we are planning as if we’re going to have at least half of a program,” she said.
If that happens, the district will partner with the Boys & Girls Club of the Greater Santiam to implement the program, she said.
♦ Approved a recommendation by HMK to award GBC Construction LLC with the Guaranteed Maximum Price Amendment 1 in the amount of $647,204.90 for the installation of concrete of the Seven Oak expansion.