Merkley, Wyden Announce $515,000 Coming to La Grande School District to Address Regional Housing Needs, Promote Technical Education

Washington, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden announced today that the La Grande School district will be awarded $515,000 through the Department of Education for a Community Initiated Project to operate housing construction and construction career and technical education (CTE) programs in the school district.

“This is a win-win for the La Grande students and community as it helps students learn valuable skills and addresses the housing crisis we are facing as a nation,” said Senator Merkley, who sits on the Senate committee that funds community-initiated projects like this. “This project will help to increase affordable housing in communities in Eastern Oregon and give students new opportunities for good paying jobs when they leave school.”

“La Grande has achieved the gold standard with this community-driven initiative blending education, job training and construction of housing that’s urgently needed in Eastern Oregon,” Wyden said. “I’m gratified the teamwork with the schools, the city, Union County and local businesses has earned this federal investment in a project well worth of replicating elsewhere in Oregon and our entire country.”

La Grande School District has actively partnered with Eastern Oregon University, Grande Ronde Hospital, City of La Grande, Union County commissioners, and other agencies to identify housing construction and construction trades as a preeminent need in the region. The housing shortage is a substantial barrier to maintaining an active and vibrant university community, expanding the hospital system, supporting manufacturing jobs, and attracting school district employees who have to relocate to rural eastern Oregon. Over the last three years, La Grande School District’s CTE program has redesigned their traditional woods program to align with construction trades skills and to construct affordable homes that: teach students essential trade skills, build a sustainable workforce pipeline, create community pride and investment, and allow all students regardless of race, gender, disability, or income a safe space to learn in the trades.

“The La Grande School District has been actively working with the City of La Grande, Grande Ronde Hospital, Union County Commissioners, and many others to identify housing construction and construction trades as a substantial need in our community. Our goal as a school district has been to address our housing, as it is a substantial barrier to maintaining an active and vibrant university, expanding our hospital system, filling manufacturing jobs, and securing District employees interested in relocating to rural eastern Oregon. We are extremely grateful for being selected for funding. We can now implement our goal of designing and building affordable homes – a project that teaches students essential trade skills, builds a sustainable workforce pipeline, and further enhances community pride in our schools. Our current generation of students need relevant and applied learning more than ever and having the opportunity for our school district to expand CTE programs and services will help with their future success and ultimately our community success. The more we can support addressing needed pathways and pipeline job opportunities the better for our future,” said George Mendoza, Superintendent, La Grande School District.