Grants Pass community discusses middle school overcrowding solutions

Grants Pass, Ore. — Grants Pass parents, community members, and business owners gathered Wednesday night to talk about the future of the school district’s middle schools. With both current schools facing overcrowding problems, and the buildings both needing repairs, the school district is asking the community to step up.

Mikaela Zottola, who attended South Middle School, was at the meeting.

“I want to raise my kids in a community like this, and having a great education system is a huge part of why I moved back here,” Zottola said.

Zottola just moved back to Grants Pass after graduating college. Even all these years later, her middle school is facing the same problems.

“Looking back, I do think that it was crowded,”¬†Zottola said. “And definitely hard to get around.”

That’s what brought her to the community discussion Wednesday night. The group is addressing a number of problems, from overcrowding to needed repairs.

“Both buildings are anywhere between 75 to 125 kids over capacity,” said Grants Pass School District Superintendent Kirk Kolb. “We continue to invest a significant amount of dollars into just maintaining these old facilities.”

Kolb says both schools were built in the late 1950’s and early ’60’s with an original life expectancy of 40 years. Now in 2017, Kolb says the facilities have more than served their time.

“Ideally, we are thinking that two middle schools to replace our existing might be the most economical way,” Kolb said.

With costs running around $100-150 million, the community is gathering to brainstorm on what is needed and where the money will come from. Kolb says a levy will likely be the solution.

It’s an idea Zatolla is behind.

“In order to have the kind of community that we want to have, we do need to have an education system and facilities that support kids and learning the skills that they need, that they can come back and pour that into the community,” Zottola said.

All of the ideas gathered will go to the Grants Pass school board to decide which project they’ll take on and when a levy to fund it will go on the ballot.

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