Weeks before voters in North Bend School District will decide on a $48.3 million bond package, members of the school board got a firsthand look at the needs of the school.

Board members were invited to tour the four schools in the district, starting with the two elementary schools - Hillcrest Elementary and North Bay Elementary.

At Hillcrest Elementary, the oldest school in the district, the needs are apparent. With no room in the school, items are being stored in the hall, chairs and other items fill the stage in the gym and classes are being held in the gym.

The school district recently purchased two portable buildings for the school, which will open to students this month. That should enable the district to address some of the overcrowding, but it won't fix many of the problems.

The main entrance to the school is currently locked because there is no other way to control access to and from the building. Superintendent Kevin Bogatin said if the bond is approved, the front entrance will be rebuilt to take guests through the office before they enter the main school.

The bond will also revamp space currently being used as the nurses' office because the area is too small and not suitable if more than one student is ill. During COVID, the school took away a staff room to create an isolation area for students who test positive for COVID.

"We've temporarily made a place that has a restroom, so it's OK," Bogatin said. "This whole area would be remodeled to make it safer for kids and staff."

Bogatin said the school also has major HVAC issues, with one of the two boilers used for heating completely offline. The bond money would fix the HVAC issues and would also address issues like adding an elevator to the second flood for disabled children, replacing locks on classroom doors that currently only lock from the outside, increase the size of the library and add more classroom space.

Hillcrest was built for 200 to 300 students and now has more than 500. That leads to overcrowding in class and other places. One of the big issues is parking and vehicle movement before and after school.

"Is there some other way to rethink this for end of day," Bogatin asked. "To get this to be more functionable."

Hillcrest also has issues with the cafeteria, which was designed for half the students who currently attend school.

"Our cafeteria is pretty small," Bogatin said. "You'll see coolers and freezers in weird spaces because they don't have room for it."

Bogatin said there will be major improvements of the school, but stopped short of details. In fact, the details are not known yet.

"We don't spend the money to know what it will look like until the bond passes," Bogatin said. "If it passes, we'll start working with our architect. You can see the need that exists. Some other people will figure out what we'll do."

Across the district at North Bay Elementary, space is not a problem. North Bay was originally built as a middle school, so it is much larger. But the school is still largely outdated and has some similar issues as Hillcrest.

The front entrance does not control who comes in and out, which will change if the bond is approved. The heating system is original to the school and hot water is forced the old broilers in each classroom.

Flooring, lighting and all the windows are also outdated and need to be upgraded. Like Hillcrest, the classroom doors also need updated locks for safety and security.

If the bond passes, two classrooms will be renovated for the Pre-K program and the district will upgrade parking and sidewalks.

Ballots for the school district bond election will be mailed out next week, and Election Day is November 2. Ballots can be mailed back for free or can be dropped off at any ballot drop box in the county.

Tuesday: A look at North Bend Junior High and North Bend High School.

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