A little more than 300 people live in the small community of Camp Sherman off the Santiam Pass, and most of the kids who live there attend the Black Butte School.
It’s been a cornerstone of the area since the late 1800’s, now boasting just 21 K-8 students.
This year, the district is asking for a bond on the May ballot for the first time since 1963 in light of some long-awaited repairs to the old building, constructed in 1951.
Marie Sheahan Brown, or “Bear” as she is typically known, started first grade at the school that same year with her twin sister.
“I’m one of one a few natives of Camp Sherman,” Brown said. “In 1963, our mother was a principal and upper grades teacher, and it was in 1963 that we put the last infrastructure bond measure on the ballot.”
60 years. Plenty of time for a few problems to develop.
The school board and staff created a “Long-Range Facilities Plan,” identifying some of the most pressing needs.
“The roof, we’ve looked at it and it is past its recommended lifespan at this point,” said Delaney Sharp, the Head Teacher at the school. The roof has been layered seven times since 1951.
Removing asbestos in the inner floor tiles and roof is another major priority.
“In addition to that, upgrading our schools HVAC system that’s getting up in years as well. Also our entryway here, we’d like to just add some safety and security measures. New locks and door handles and things like that as well,” Sharp added.
They also hope to install energy-efficient windows, update their restrooms, and expand their classroom spaces.
The $2 million bond would be partnered with a $2 million grant from the State of Oregon through the Oregon School Capital Improvement Matching (OSCIM) Program.
That’s $123 per year, or $10.25 per month for each $100,000 of assessed property value.
If the bond doesn’t pass, the district loses out on the extra grant money.
Their request comes after a number of community surveys and meetings.
“We don’t have a big tax base, and so most funding that we get is just for basic everyday teaching needs, not for capital improvement,” Brown said. “So for little school districts, little rural school districts especially, to have to come up with the whole amount can be daunting.”
Daunting, but worth it for a staff dedicated to the culture and history of the school.
“We all really form these tight connections with each other, and then also get a chance to just get out and explore the Metolius Basin, the outdoors and develop those connections to the natural world as well. So it’s a really unique school,” Sharp said.
“It’s a treasure, it’s a jewel of of the community,” Brown added. “And it’s worth preserving, protecting, upgrading to serve for the next 70 years.”
District staff are holding a community meeting at 6:30 on Tuesday evening at the school to give the public another chance to learn and ask questions about their bond request.
Ballots for the May election are due at 8 p.m. on May 16.