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Bend La-Pine Schools feel impacts of crowding

By John Hendricks
Published On: Nov 01 2012 12:20:57 AM CDT
Updated On: Nov 01 2012 05:03:35 PM CDT

NewsChannel 21's John Hendricks reports on crowding in the Bend-La Pine School District.

BEND, Ore. -

Students listen intently as Bend High art teacher Jesse Lockwood shows them the process of making their own pottery. It may sound like any old classroom, but this one is jam-packed with students.

"It's something I have grown accustom to it's just how it's been since I have been here," said Lockwood. "I have had to adapt to just the set up of the classroom."

Lockwood's classroom is broken up into several rooms, posing unique challenges for the teacher who's been in Bend for six years. Even though he teaches with what he's given there are still challenges he faces every day.

"I have to get all the kids to come into this one space, which makes things tight," said Lockwood. "Especially if I am doing things on the board. I've got kids sitting up on the side, so the view is not good for some kids, some having to be in the very back we can't fit in."

The layout of the room not only proves a logistical nightmare, but having so many students, it's tough to focus on each of their individual learning styles.

"I don't want to put any less importance on one individual student," said Lockwood. "They all need it, and so I just do my best to walk around and ask a lot of questions, who needs help who's struggling with this --, you know, that's about all you can do."

"It's just getting more difficult to deliver a good education to our kids because this crowding ... it's beginning to become a distraction," said parent Peggy Kinkade.

Kinkade has seen the effects of crowded schools first-hand. She's had kids in the Bend-La Pine Schools since 1998 -- and she's also a member of the school board.

"Even though we have really great teachers doing their best, it becomes an insurmountable obstacle to try and educate that many kids inside of a classroom," said Kinkade.

If you think the crowds are only confined to the classroom, think again. When the bell rings, all those students flood the halls.

"It's I-5 rush hour! Every period is rush hour I-5," said H.D. Weddel, principal of Bend High. "We have to go over that at the beginning of the school year, how to get through the hallways."

As of Oct. 1, there were 16,600 students enrolled in the district. In the last three years, it's seen 750 new students' faces -- that's equivalent to 30 new classrooms.

"As far as a district, we have to plan ahead." said Superintendent Ron Wilkinson. "We have to continue to move forward in order to provide the classrooms for our students."

Wilkinson says the district has proposed a bond measure to build new schools, slated for next May. He says its tax-neutral -- with one bond expiring, another would go in place, giving the district money to expand.

The owner of a home with an average value of $200,000 would continue to pay $66 a year for school bonds. or 33 cents per/$1,000 of assessed value.

"The focus of our school board has been on a long-term strategy, in terms of bonds, to try to keep that amount about flat over time," said Wilkinson.

The proposed bond on the May ballot would pay for a new 800-student middle school, a 300-student elementary school, and 138 projects to extend the lives of current schools.

Back in the Bend High art room, Lockwood continues to teach and remain positive.

"The classroom is definitely pretty dilapidated and falling apart," said Lockwood. "But it doesn't mean that good teaching can't happen, and students can't learn, no matter what environment you are in."

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