Woodburn students returning to school Sept. 5 may have spent their summers relaxing, but it's been a busy three months for construction crews working on projects funded by the $65 million school bond passed by voters in 2015.
John O. Henri, the project manager for the district's bond projects, outlined the progress at the Aug. 17 school board meeting and before the Aug. 23 Bond Advisory Accountability Committee. Although there are still things to finish up before class begins next week, it's looking like the school district will finish what it set out to accomplish during summer construction season.
The reroofing projects at Heritage Elementary School and Valor Middle School, for which construction began in June, are finished in time for school.
Projects at Woodburn High School are planned for completion by the end of the summer. That includes the installation of fire sprinklers spanning the entire high school, along with the renovation of classrooms damaged in the school's 2012 fire. (The classroom renovation project is funded by insurance payouts, not the capital improvement bond.)
"They're going to be working nights and weekends," Superintendent Chuck Ransom said of the construction crews working on the project. "It's going to be close."
If all goes according to plan, Ransom said the band room, choir room, a career and technical education space, a life skills area, an athletic office and more will be available for use by the first day of school.
Although the sprinklers will improve the safety of the school, Ransom admits the upgrade won't draw as much attention as the newly reopened classrooms. "It's kind of a hard one to be excited about," Ransom said. "You don't walk in and (think), like, 'Hey, new sprinklers!'"
At Washington Elementary School, the crews have been laying the groundwork this summer for further construction. They've completed the excavation for the new bus loops, new classroom building and a storm drain.
The new bus loop is nearly complete and is planned to be complete by the start of the school year.
In addition, the play structure has been decommissioned and removed from the site to allow for construction.
And a building permit was issued by the city of Woodburn for the classroom addition. Construction on the addition has begun, and is scheduled to becompleted in January 2018.
"We're hitting the end of the first phase … which was a lot of underground work," Ransom said. "Washington's going to be going on for a couple more years. So what we're trying to do is — and this is what's going to be complicated at every single project — is how can we begin moving on these projects and still have school."
Ransom said this year might be challenging for the staff, students and parents at Washington. "It still won't be ideal. It's going to be loud," Ransom said.
Another challenge is that students will be without a play structure for at least the first couple of weeks of school.
"It's really going to test the patience of staff and parents and kids," Ransom said.
And while the effort to build a new Success Alternative High School campus has seen its fair share of delays, it reached one important milestone: Its conditional use application was deemed complete by the city of Woodburn, meaning it will be considered by the planning commission in September.
That could mean ground could be broken on the site, located east of the district office, as early as this fall.
"We were hoping to have had that much sooner," Ransom said. "We were hoping to have (the application approved) this spring so we could actually get some dirt moved this summer, because once we get in there and get some gravel down and the foundation started we can actually work through the winter."
Although construction progressed this summer, Ransom said he realizes many community members expected the projects to be further along than they are.
"It's difficult for the district to try to get people to understand we're working really hard, we're trying to get things through," Ransom said. "But there are a lot of challenges."