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Out with the old? Principals, officials outline shortcomings of aging schools

Bond funding would address safety, maintenance issues at outdated buildings


by: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - ESL teacher Deborah Harpine leads her reading group in a corner of Vose Elementary's library. They put up book shelves as walls to create a temporary room to make the instruction a little more private.With its endlessly curving hallways, soaring ceilings and circular, Jetsons-era architecture, Vose Elementary School provides children an imaginative environment in which to learn and grow.

For teachers and administrators charged with keeping students safe, accounted for and optimally focused on learning, the 55-year-old double-domed building on Southwest Denney Road is a logistical nightmare.

Although in her first full year as principal, Veronica Galvan can easily enumerate the facility’s shortcomings: The cafeteria is dominated by hulking walk-in food coolers. Parking and bus drop offs create twice-a-day gridlock. The building’s curvature makes it difficult to see what’s going on more than about 10 feet away.

“We can barely see people coming in here,” she says, surveying Vose’s main entrance area. “All the other doors, we have to keep unlocked. We take a risk of who might be able to come in.”by: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Vose Elementary custodian Doug Augustus buffs the cafeteria floor, where large freezers inhabit part of the space.

Because of longtime overcrowding, many of the 750 students are forced to shuffle from the main building to seven portable classrooms that consume a swath of what once was playground area behind the school.

An all-student assembly in the gym? Forget it. The fire marshal’s rated capacity for the space is 204 people.

Galvan and her faculty agree the school is long overdue for a significant change.

“The consensus is that we’ve outgrown the building,” she says. “There are so many needs and safety concerns that aren’t working for our community. I hope we’re able to get a new building.”

In voters’ hands

If enough Beaverton School District voters agree that new and improved facilities are worth committing to a $680 bond measure, Vose and three other district schools will be razed and replaced in the near future.

The measure on the Tuesday, May 20, election ballot would provide an eight-year funding stream to replace Vose, Hazeldale Elementary School, the Arts and Communication Magnet Academy and William Walker Elementary School with new facilities on their existing pro perties. The taxpayer-backed windfall would also cover projects such as new roofs, heating and ventilation systems, wiring, security, playground equipment and other items across the district’s 51 school buildings, while replacing outdated learning technology, curriculum and equipment.

Cost estimates for the four new buildings range from $28.3 million for ACMA to $24.8 million at Vose.

“The only money available to do any of this work is from the construction bond measure,” says Dick Steinbrugge, the district’s executive administrator for facilities. “There are no other resources for major repairs or replacement with new schools.”

As older bonds are retired, the new measure is expected to maintain the district’s overall bond tax rate of $2.11 per $1,000 of assessed property value throughout its eight-year duration.

If voters reject the bond measure, plans for new buildings would be shelved. Long-deferred maintenance issues, such as replacing Sunset High School’s aging roof — a roughly $3 million proposition — would have to be addressed one way or another.

“There are some critical repairs that have to be done anyway,” Steinbrugge says. “At some point, we can’t keep postponing that. It would have to be supported by the general fund. That’s the only other fund we have, which of course pays for operations.”by: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Vose Elementary School houses about a third of its classes in seven portable classrooms, creating the need for students to shuffle back and forth between them and the main building.

Bursting at the seams

The four schools set for replacement were determined to have the most difficult space, safety, mechanical and maintenance challenges.

“Each one of these, they’re old,” Steinbrugge said of the mostly 50 years or older buildings. “These are the ones that really kind of stood out. A lot of things need to be fixed.”

On top of that, enrollment is on the upswing, with no sign of letting up. More than 2,600 new students have come aboard since 2006, boosting the district’s enrollment to just below 40,000 students. In addition to several elementary schools, four of the district’s five comprehensive high schools are near or beyond 100 percent capacity, according to district officials. Some projections indicate more than 5,000 additional students will enroll in Beaverton schools in the next decade.

A new high school in the South Cooper Mountain area and a new middle school near Providence St. Vincent Medical Center are planned to accommodate this trend, while two-story structures would replace the four single-floor schools targeted for replacement.

“It gives us a little more capacity and creates a smaller footprint on the ground,” Steinbrugge explains. “More importantly, seismic, fire protection and security standards are becoming increasingly important in school buildings these days.”

Safety and stewardship

For Angela Tran, principal at Hazeldale Elementary School, student safety and comfort are the primary concerns that bond measure funding could alleviate with a new building at 20080 S.W. Farmington Road.

“A primary issue that’s hard for the common eye to see is safety,” she says. “We have many points of entry for student-access services such as speech pathology and ESL classes. Students need to move about different locations. It makes securing our exterior doors a challenge.”

While her role, like that of all district employees, precludes her from advocating for the bond, she is open to any financial solution that would improve facilities at her aging

Title 1 school, which caters to financially disadvantaged

families.

A majority of classrooms don’t have locking doors. Tap water flows orange. Sounds easily bleed from one learning space to another. Asbestos — a toxic carcinogen when disrupted — still covers many surfaces in the vintage building.

“It can be very confusing to the public, but a bond is how we pay for new schools as well as maintenance,” Tran says. “It’s not just new things, but wiring, roofs, boilers — less glamorous things. You have to (replace) these things at home, and you need to do it for schools, so we can be good stewards of the property.

“It’s not just wanting a big, beautiful building,” she adds. “It’s about wanting a safe building where children can hear what they’re learning and they can be proud of.”by: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - The curving hallways of Vose Elementary School make it difficult to supervise the students.

The ‘swing school’ concept

Pending voter approval of the Beaverton School District’s $680 bond measure, a schedule would determine the order in which four schools would be razed and rebuilt.

Students, faculty and staff from Vose Elementary, Hazeldale Elementary, the Arts and Communication Magnet Academy and William Walker Elementary would temporarily move to a new middle school planned for property off Timberland Drive near Providence St. Vincent Medical Center as their home facility was complete.

“The middle school would take about two years to complete,” says Dick Steinbrugge, the district’s executive administrator for facilities. “Temporarily, it becomes a swing school, where we move students and staff while we do a tear down and rebuild” on the four schools.

Before setting a timeline on the building shuffle, district officials would focus on design of the middle school as well as a proposed new high school in the South Cooper Mountain area.

“Once we get those projects in line, we can set the sequence for tear downs and replacements,” Steinbrugge says.

For more information about projects that would be funded by the proposed school bond, visit beaverton.k12.or.us/district/bond-measure-information.



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