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Voters Say ‘Yes’ to Jefferson Rebuild

Measure also includes a new Center for Black Student Excellence

Home to Portland’s historic African American community, Jefferson High School, will be completely modernized under a new bond levy that was easily passed by Portland Public Schools voters in Tuesday’s General Election. PHOTO BY STEVE MORGAN/WIKIPEDIA COMMONS

Jefferson High School, home for generations of families from Portland’s African American community, will get a complete renovation, and schools surrounding Jefferson will start a process to open a new Center for Black Student Excellence, as part of a construction bond that was passed by voters in Tuesday’s General Election.

Returns from Multnomah County Elections on Wednesday, show the $1.2 billion property tax proposal, Measure 26-215 was supported by 75% of voters, the largest percentage of support for a Portland Public School bond in the past 50 years, school officials said.

PPS Board Member and bond campaign chair Julia Brim-Edwards called the results a great accomplishment for students, families and the city.

"Thank you Portland voters! In the midst of a pandemic, challenging economic times, and a national reckoning with racial injustice, you have overwhelmingly entrusted us to continue moving forward with rebuilding our crumbling, outdated schools, many of them 80-100 years old,” Brim-Edwards said.

The measure will also pay for planning and design to rebuild Wilson and Cleveland High Schools; for further expansion of Roosevelt High School; for completion of the remodel of Benson High School and for a Multiple Pathways to Graduation alternative school program building on the Benson campus

Other provisions of the bond will pay for new technology infrastructure; devices/tablets for every staff and student; updated and new curriculum and textbooks for all grades and all core subjects; renew and update buildings across the district with new HVAC systems, replacement roofs, and other health and safety improvements. It removes barriers to education by making the first floor of every school in the district accessible to those with disabilities. Within five years, every first-floor bathroom, classroom, library and cafeteria will be accessible.

The 2020 bond will not increase the existing tax rate because it replaces an expiring construction bond.

"We're delighted to see voters affirm their continued commitment to modernizing our crumbling buildings," said Elizabeth Thiel, president of the Portland Association of Teachers.

"It's been a tough year for teachers, and we're grateful that Portland voters continue to recognize the importance of investing in public education during difficult times."

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