▶️ La Pine High graduation rate behind curve compared to district

Bend La-Pine School District, like many others across the state, reported an improvement in graduation rates for the 2021-22 school year last week. But within the district, there was an outlier.

Districtwide, the graduation rate was 83.5%. And most schools in the district came in at more than 87%.

But La Pine High School was behind the curve at a 59.2% graduation rate.

“This is a community crisis and a community conversation. I think I would love to see them driving the conversation to get the input from the community around what are the barriers that kids and families are facing,” parent Angela Groves said.

RELATED: 2022 Oregon graduation rates 2nd highest ever; Central OR exceeding state

It’s a rate the district says is unsatisfactory. 

“We are not pleased with the graduation rate for La Pine High School at this point,” executive director for Bend-La Pine high schools Katie Legace said. “Obviously, I know our community in La Pine feels the same way. Our teachers, our whole staff in La Pine and our community. So we’re gonna continue to work with those students and the staff in La Pine and support them in getting the graduation rates up.”

 

La Pine High School’s rates were flat from last year’s numbers, staying steady at 59%. But before that, the class of 2020 recorded a graduation rate of 76.7% — a more than 17% drop.

La Pine High School says struggles during the pandemic are a major reason for the drop.

“We had a number kids during the struggles of the last couple years shifted their focus in some regard to work and family,” La Pine High School principal Scott Olszewski said. “What that meant for some was a full disengagement from school, but for some it was partial engagement. So their engagement may be spotty at times.”

La Pine High School says it hopes its day programs will help students get back on track.

“If you look at our graduation rate from last year, you would see that we are nearly 20 points higher when the students have been in our CTE (Career and Technical Education) program,” Olszewski said. “If they’ve done four or more classes with a CTE program, their graduation rate was at 77.4%.” 

As for Groves, she just wishes the district would be more transparent about where they’re falling short.

“I think the first step is awareness and acknowledgment and transparency, and that’s a really basic date metric that we are evaluating across communities. Let’s own it,” Groves said.

La Pine High School says it has hired more teachers, added more funding and more infrastructure for those popular progams that, so far, seem to be keeping student more engaged.

La Pine High School says when the students in the class of 2022 were freshman, they were on track to reach a graduation rate of 75%. This freshman class from last year has a rate of 87%. 

School-Specific 4-year Cohort Graduation Rate for 2021-22

  • Bend Senior High: 88.2%
  • Bend Tech Academy at Marshall: 51.6%
  • La Pine High: 59.2%
  • Mountain View: 87%
  • Realms High: 94.9%
  • Summit: 95.8%

 

▶️ 4 alternatives for fish passage through Newport Dam presented

Four possible solutions for fish passage through the Newport Dam that forms Mirror Pond received public input Monday.

A fish ladder, a more “nature-like” fish passage and two variations of rock ramps were presented.

“I thought the consultant for the city did an excellent job of presenting four alternatives for fish passage, with the exception that I was expecting to see a number five in which removal of the entire dam was considered,” hydrologist for Max Depth Aquatics Joseph Eilers said.

RELATED: Changes to Mirror Pond depend on the future of Newport Dam

RELATED: Mirror Pond water levels reduced by 2 feet

The ultimate fate of the dam rests entirely in the hands of its owners, Pacific Power. Some questioned the utility company’s commitment to maintaining the dam. If Pacific Power backs out of ownership, the dam could be removed entirely.

PacificCorp could walk away from this in a minute, and what I suspect is holding back that discussion is the sediment that’s in Mirror Pond and who would have to pay for the removal of that if the dam goes,” Eilers said during the Q and A session of the meeting. 

 

Dr. Jerry Freilich, a now-retired career man with the National Parks Service, says he hopes those working on fish passage are careful before investing money into something where the dam going away could change the scenario.

“People from PacificCorp in this meeting today said ‘Oh yes, we’re putting in all this work. We’re invested in it.’ Well that’s fine for them to say that, but there’s no legal reason why they have to. They can change their mind tomorrow,” Freilich said.

Matt Chancellor with Pacific Power, which is owned by PacificCorp, says the company has no plans in giving up ownership of the dam. 

“Today we have no plans of divesting the Newport Avenue Hydro Facility. It’s a carbon-free facility so that’s a big plus for our community,” Chancellor said.

A follow-up meeting has not yet been scheduled, but one is expected to be held within the next four weeks. 

▶️ Changes to Mirror Pond depend on the future of Newport Dam

From construction projects to proposed changes to a dam and even silt removal, Mirror Pond on the Deschutes River is in store for some changes over the next few months. Combined, the projects have the potential to reshape Bend’s famous downtown water feature.

The Newport Dam directly shapes Mirror Pond. The dam is facing future changes, involving a fish passage project that will allow fish to swim upriver. As it is now, fish are blocked by the dam.

“All signs about dredging, or the longevity of fish passage, all of that depends on the future of the dam,” Bend City Councilor Ariel Mendez said.

RELATED: Mirror Pond water levels reduced by 2 feet

RELATED: Mirror Pond Committee moves to Phase 2 on Newport Dam fish passage

The pond is currently drained due to a Bend Park and Recreation construction project meant to extend the trails and banks — a separate project from the proposed fish passage.

“It’s kinda disheartening, honestly, to come by and see once was a really nice river corridor just kind of regulated to death,” Bend resident Axel Hovorka said.

Kris Knight with the Upper Deschutes Watershed Council says he hopes people show up to a public meeting on Jan. 30, where the public can comment on proposed fish passage alternatives through the dam.

“Some of the alternatives that will be presented will be a typical fish ladder, and then the other options are different versions of a rock ramp because it’s more natural looking,” Knight said. “It will be either adjacent to or downstream of the dam.”

Knight also says there are no planned impacts to Mirror Pond. 

The issue of silt disposal is also up in the air. BPRD says it’s been a hot topic of conversation between BPRD board of directors and Bend City Council for over the past decade. As far as funding and resources go for potential silt removal, none of that has been agreed upon.

▶️ Beer-flation: Manufacturing costs up more than 30% for brewers

Nothing seems to be safe from inflation right now, and beer is no exception. The cost of raw materials, shipping and manufacturing have all risen in the beer industry, making it more expensive to pour you a pint.

“Our cost as an industry, when we look at the beer producer’s index, which measures all the inputs that go into our beer, be they malt, hops, packaging materials. All these things is at one of the highest levels it’s been at in more than 30 years,” Deschutes Brewery President and CEO Peter Strbek said. 

Strbek says that while beer brewers are battling the bill, beer buyers are actually getting a decent deal at the grocery stores.

“Beer represents one of the best values that a consumer can find right now,” Strbek said. “Yes the price has gone up, but relative to everything else in the grocery store, it’s gone up at a lot slower pace. When you think about costs being up north of 30% for brewers, prices have only gone up about 8%.” 

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There are multiple reasons behind the increased costs. 

“The biggest drivers have been malt,” Strbek said. Malt had its worst crop in 2021 in the U.S. since 1934. Really drove the price of malt up This year so far, it’s up 30-plus percent. Aluminum and the price of aluminum cans throughout 2022 was elevated in the double digits of percentage.”

Malt is the ingredient that adds carbohydrates to make beer. Strbek sees a multi-year recovery after a poor 2021 malt harvest and doesn’t expect relief on the malt market until 2024.

Another major factor is the war in Ukraine. Ukraine is the 7th-largest producer of wheat in the world and is forecasted to be the 5th-largest wheat exporter in the 2021-2022 market year according the U.S. Department of Agriculture. 

Strbek says that strain on the wheat market will persist until the conflict is resolved.

▶️ ‘Thinking of moving’: Bend residents react to new quality of life survey

Results for a new community survey show Bendites’ opinions on their quality of life is dwindling.

“I have actually been thinking of moving out of town, because it’s different than it was 20 years ago,” Bendite Molly Connors said.

The survey conducted last year and presented to the Bend City Council Wednesday found that 70% of residents consider quality of life here to be excellent or good. While that number is high, it’s a noticeable drop from the 88% who said the same thing just two years earlier.

The main top-of-mind issues were shown to be homelessness and affordable housing.

“As a single mom of two kids, I work at the hospital as a nurse, and I have a second job and it’s tough to live in this community because of the cost of living,” Sandy Gersbach said. “It’s tough. It’s easy to get burnt out working two jobs, trying to make ends meet.”

RELATED: Bend’s newest homeless shelter Stepping Stone expected to open in February

RELATED: ‘Unsafe campsite’ Hunnell Road to be cleared

The survey found affordable housing is a top issue for 25% of those who responded, about the same as two years ago.

Homelessness made a significant jump when it comes to importance for residents, coming in at 36%. It was at 8% in 2020.

“The homelessness is really sad and I don’t know what the answer is to that,” Bendite Susan Colletto said.

Bend’s urban growth also seems to be a main concern.

“Just a few minutes ago I was thinking ‘All the cars, all the cars, all the cars.’ It’s the traffic, It’s the crime,” Connors said.

“The town is growing. Maybe a little bit bigger and faster than I would like. But that’s what happens in towns like this that are beautiful and have a lot to offer,” Colletto said.

Forty-three percent of respondents give city leaders an “A” or “B” grade, down from 65% in 2020.

You can find more results from this survey here.

▶️ Why are the street lamps purple at Empire and Purcell in Bend?

When the sun’s out, they look like normal street lamps. But after it gets dark, the difference is night and day.

You may have seen the street lights illuminating the roundabout at Purcell Boulevard and Empire Avenue with cones of blue and purple light.

“It has maybe something to do with the glare or reflection, that was the only couple times I thought about it, and that was it,” said Tommy Wilkinson, who lives near the intersection.

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RELATED: House demolition marks beginning of Wilson Ave. and 15th Street roundabout

It’s not the glare or the reflection, and it’s not for some special purpose. It’s, in fact, a manufacturing defect.

“This roundabout was built around 2019,” senior project manager Sinclair Burr said. “At that time, we installed all the lights to the specifications, the right warmth, the right color. But since then, two of the lights have been hit. So they have been replaced by Pacific Power.”

The defect lies in the fixture of the bulb. The laminate gives it the common warm white and yellow color. But as the laminate degrades over time, the light shines through as blue.

It’s not just happening here, either. Washington state, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Florida, New Mexico, and California, New York, and even Canada and Europe, have seen the chromatic aberrations. 

The City of Bend says Pacific Power plans to replace the fixtures sometime in the future.

▶️ New Deschutes Co. landfill site meeting packed with residents in opposition

Daniel Baca and his neighbors live along Bear Creek Road. A quiet, rural community east of Bend and just 1/4 of a mile away from a proposed landfill site. 

“Very much so I’d consider moving and I’d be moving away from my house that I built with my own two hands. It was something that was considered our dream home,” Baca said.

The project needs more than 460 acres of land to develop.

“It will take the road that we live on which is a nice dirt road and turn it into a main thoroughfare, and a thoroughfare for trash and garbage,” Baca said.

RELATED: SE Bend resident unhappy with proposed Knott Landfill replacement site

RELATED: 13 potential sites named to replace Knott Landfill: See the map

 

It is just one proposed site out of 13. Residents of areas near the other proposed sites filled a Deschutes County meeting room on Tuesday, airing their grievances.

“Those dust devils, they’ll have the strength to pick up the garbage. And all the extreme winds out there, they will move the garbage around,” one Millican Valley resident said.

“When you have a landfill site like this, and you have the methane fires that are created from the decomposition of the materials, these create violent thermals that are going up 50-60 mph. If a hang glider pilot hits that, that’s total death,” another Millican Valley resident and pilot said.

 

Even Chad Centola, Director of Deschutes County Solid Waste and a member of the committee that ran Tuesday’s meeting, lives along the Rickard Road Proposal site.

“Well when I saw it come up on the list, I was not thrilled. I mean, I live there too. I relate to everything the poeple in the community are saying,” Centola said. “But I have a job I’ve been retained to do here for the county. My role is to function in the landfill siting process, not as a property owner.” 

Knott Landfill is forecasted to reach capacity by 2029, meaning they need to start development on a new dump in 2027 — a very tight timeline.

 

In the meantime, Baca hopes more people come visit his neck of the woods, so they can see what would be wasted if the site is approved.

“We’re real people too,” Baca said. “Even though we live on the east side and it’s quiet and nice over here, come out yourselves. BLM is right across the street. It’s for you to enjoy. See what is potentially going to be pushed over.”

The next public meeting for the landfill proposals is February 16.

Knott Landfill replacement site map

▶️ SE Bend resident unhappy with proposed Knott Landfill replacement site

A landfill site proposal in southeast Bend is seeing opposition from nearby residents. The location is just north of Conestoga Hills Neighborhood where there sits 100 homes.

“Having a landfill out here is certainly not the best idea. And you have other selections which would be farther east,” one concerned resident said.\

Knott Landfill is set to reach capacity in 2029. It is Deschutes County’s only landfill.

Thirteen potential locations under consideration were announced last month. They include one northeast of Redmond; Two east of Bend near the Badlands and another just south of the Badlands; Five near Pine Mountain; Two east of Brothers near Highway 20 and two more east of Hampton.

Neighbors say a new landfill should be out of the way of existing neighborhoods and far from potential future development. 

“You’d wanna move it out past any possibilities of development which would be at least to the end of Rickard (Road),” the resident said. “You’ve got farmlands out there, so you’d go farther than that.”

RELATED: 13 potential sites named to replace Knott Landfill: See the map

But the sentiment on the location isn’t unanimous.

“I’m pretty much leaning in favor of it,” neighbor Robert Marvos said.

Marvos lives a bit further away from the proposed landfill site, but close enough that he received a flyer urging to take action against the proposal. When asked if he’d have a different opinion if he lived closer, he said he probably wouldn’t. 

“The Knott Landfill is filled up and needs to be replaced,” Marvos said. “We have to think more as a unified group of people and not just individuals.”

A meeting is being held at the Deschutes County Road Department on Jan 17 from 9-11 a.m. It is open to the public where people will be able to voice their objections, or their approvals.

▶️ Crook County still in ‘exceptional drought,’ new snow and water report says

The National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) released its Oregon Water Supply Outlook Report and, after several dry summers, most of Central Oregon is fairing better than some may expect. 

“Central Oregon is fairing a little bit better than our sites along the the Cascade crest. So we certainly hope to see those conditions improve,” said Matt Warbritton, lead hydrologist with the NRCS.

While most of Central Oregon is seeing “almost normal” to “normal” precipitation and snowpack conditions, Crook County is below the curve. 

“Crook County has been the focal point of persistent long term exceptional drought in the state. Exceptional drought is the highest drought category,” said Warbritton.

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The NRCS says snowpack conditions in the county are trending upward for the time being, helping alleviate some of the more severe drought conditions. However, it will still take years for water levels like those in the Prineville Reservoir to rise back to normal.

“Recovering from drought, it’s a multi-year thing,” Warbritton said. “It’s not just one year and everything’s fine again. Especially in an area like Crook County. It takes multiple years of above normal snowpack. And also, normal to above-normal precipitation conditions. And so far that has been quite variable.”

Crook County will hold a special public meeting at the county courthouse Thursday at 1:30 p.m.. The meeting will address the drought conditions, including declaring a local drought emergency, and urging Governor Tina Kotek to declare a state of emergency in the midst of the conditions.

▶️ HomeShare Oregon proposes tax exemption for homeowners who rent out rooms

Officials with the nonprofit organization HomeShare Oregon are working with state lawmakers on a bill to help homeowners save money. It’s a state income tax exemption for those willing to share their home.

Homeowners who rent a room out of their home — longterm and for less than $1,000 per month — would be eligible for the exemption.

Depending on your income, it could possibly save you upwards to $1,000 or more.

HomeShare Oregon is a free program and acts as a “matchmaker” for roommates.

“We provide free background screens, we encourage people to check references on both sides and we encourage both people to meet and have extensive conversations,” Executive Director for HomeShare Oregon, Tess Fields said.

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Homeowners and renters are able to select categories that are compatible with their living space. For instance, homeowners can set a “no smoking” policy to help filter their matches. 

HomeShare Oregon says 800 homeowners signed up to rent a spare bedroom and more than 3,000 renters have attempted to rent a room.

“We learned that across the state of Oregon there’s 1.5 million owner occupied homes that have a spare bedroom available,” Fields said. “We felt that if we could incentivize just 2% of that population to homeshare, we could house 33,000 people affordably without any new infrastructure.” 

The bill hasn’t been presented yet as the state legislature is still finalizing committee assignments. Fields says more information on when the bill can expect to be introduced to the legislative floor will come in the next couple of weeks.