Alameda schoolyard project paused until next year

ONTARIO — The facelift that Alameda Elementary School was to receive won’t begin until next year due to a lack of funding.

Through a collaboration of private and public funders, the elementary school was selected in 2022 to participate in a pilot project to renovate rural schoolyards in Oregon. Project leaders were slated to select a contractor this month and begin construction in June, according to planning documents.

The plan was to complete construction at the end of this year.

Over the last year, the Trust for Public Land has gathered public input on the project’s design.

The $1.9 million project will create open green spaces, update the schoolyard equipment, and make the schoolyard a community gathering space after school hours.

Amanda Craig, a project manager with the Trust for Public Land’s Oregon Rural Community Schoolyards project, said the project didn’t receive the necessary $1 million state funding sought from the Oregon Legislature. Craig said the funding the Trust for Public Land sought was for projects in Madras and Ontario. Each project would have received $500,000.

She said the organization requested funds during the 2022 legislative session and the 2023 short session. Craig said the Trust for Public Land intends on going back to the Oregon Legislature in 2024 and will approach a few other larger foundations for support.

Meantime, the organization is pushing back the project, which has raised nearly $500,000 of the total $1 million needed to start construction, which was slated to begin in June.

Craig said there are ways to scale back the playground, but the organization’s intentions are to fully fund the project as planned.

She said since 2022, the Trust for Public Land has worked closely with the Ontario School District and the public to ensure the plan meets the desires and needs of the community. This has included community dinners and gatherings to allow people to give feedback, ask questions and stay informed about the project’s progress.

She said the organization has completed “a great deal of work.”

“It may be useful to note TPL’s process begins with community engagement and design, which starts long before we break ground,” Craig said.

Craig told the Ontario School Board in March that the Trust for Public Land would report back over the next six months as it pursued grants and other funding.

“In the next couple of months, we’ll kind of reassess and then come back with our new idea or plan,” she said.

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