School Board: Keep moving on Seven Oak expansion

By Sarah Brown
Lebanon Local
Lebanon School Board members on Oct. 13 gave staff a thumbs-up to move forward with plans to expand Seven Oak Middle School to accommodate more sixth-graders.
William Lewis, director of business services for Lebanon Community School District, approached the board at the meeting for a “go” or “no-go” directive regarding the Seven Oak expansion project.
One of the district’s priorities is to move sixth-grade students to Seven Oak in order to free up space at the elementary schools for pre-K programs. As plans for the move began, Lewis asked for $2.5 million to build a structure behind existing Seven Oak buildings. Soon after, construction costs increased, causing Lewis to return to the board to ask for an extra $1.5 million from ESSER III funds.
When professionals came in to begin the project, it quickly became apparent the budget would be over $6 million, Lewis said, so they went back to the drawing board to “tighten up” the project and redesign.
“What we mean is we value-engineered this,” he said. “We couldn’t afford the six-classroom spaces that we looked at, so we went back and we said ‘what is it that we really need?’”
Recent cost estimates now sit at $5,194,000 after paring down to three classrooms, a fitness center, a covered canopy and some restrooms. The number accounts for contingencies, including inflationary factors, he said, and adds up to about $355 per square foot.
“I’m feeling very comfortable that we can see the project through the finish line at $5.1 million or less,” Lewis said. “I think we’re in an environment now where projects are starting to come in lower.”
Funding is expected to come from ESSER funds, of which the district reports it currently has $8.1 million.
Board members Nicole Piland and Tammy Schilling expressed concern about the reduction of classrooms from six to three, calling into question whether that puts them at capacity or does not allow for room for future growth.
Supt. Bo Yates said they would be near capacity, with about 15 to 20% growth factor, but the board was satisfied to hear that the fitness center could be converted to extra classrooms if necessary.
The board agreed that Lewis should move forward with the plan, with the expectation he will return with more solid numbers for approval as the project fleshes out more.

In other business, the board:
♦ Heard a presentation by Bill Wittman, School Improvement and Federal Programs director, about STAR assessment data.
He looked at STAR data from across the nation and determined that Lebanon’s students are “mirroring” exactly what was found in the report, and noted three major findings. First, performance was lower in 2021/22 from 2020/21, “suggesting the pandemic continues to have a compounding effect on student achievement,” he said.
Second, fall-to-winter growth increased in 2021/22 from the previous year, though most grades remain below the typical growth. Third, although performance and growth vary between student and school subgroups, most follow the overall pattern of lower performance but stronger growth in 2021/22 relative to 2020/21.
Whitman considers the last school year as a baseline since returning from COVID, and is happy to see as much as 95 to 98% participation in the schools this year.
“We met all of our goals there, for sure, and now we have performance to work on,” he said.
♦ Heard a presentation by Asst. Supt. Jennifer Meckley about Division 22, the standard by which Oregon school districts are expected to meet.
Meckley said the LSD failed last year to be compliant with the amount of physical education minutes provided, so the district is seeking creative ways to improve.
According to her presentation, Division 22 requires 225 minutes of physical education a week, but LSD reported an average of 90 minutes per week last year.
♦ Reviewed policy updates including graduation requirements, human sexuality, health services, public records request, medications, workplace harassment, interscholastic activities, special education, academic achievement, use of restraint, criminal record checks, and Talented and Gifted services.
Board member Richard Borden asked for clarification about the number of nurses to “medically fragile” students, of which Meckley assured him there were enough.
He also asked whether students carry their own medications with them or if the schools handle the supplies, to which she replied each student has their own health plan with the school, which may or may not mean staff are administering them.
Schilling raised a concern about the use of Narcan at schools, and how staff would be trained to identify opioid overdose versus epilepsy (because her research revealed that overdose can mimic epilepsy). She also brought up a “what if” scenario wherein a kid is having an epileptic seizure and another kid administers Narcan. Meckley replied that she has learned Narcan will not do harm to someone who receives it but does not need it.
“That’s not acceptable to me,” Schilling responded. “I just want to be sure the training recognizes those differences.”
“This boils to the safety of our students,” Bolen said. “As we look through these policies, we need to be thoughtful about how we’re implementing them;”
♦ Received a report about new hires that include a music teacher for Hamilton Creek and Lacomb, a science teacher at Lebanon High School, and four roving teachers.