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Estacada bond attempts to break the 'mold'

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NEWS PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - Administrators say the Estacada High School commons, shown here, is a security risk to students and staff because it is publicly accessible during school hours. The aim is to close this and other security loopholes through passage of a bond measure.In the depths of an unused classroom toward the back of Estacada High School, mold lurks on a wall.

Amidst the leaking roof and old desks stored in the room — one of three that have been condemned for several years — the mold makes itself known. Usually, classrooms are home to the sounds of students, but in this one, mold makes the noise.

“Sometimes you’ll walk in and hear it pop,” Vice Principal Trevor Syring said as he gestured toward the fungus on the back wall.

The condemned classrooms, mold and all, are some of the many reasons extensive work at Estacada High School is proposed with funds from the school district’s general obligation bond. This November, the bond will be on the ballots of Estacada voters as Measure 3-501.

Though all school buildings will receive updates if the measure passes, the most significant work would be done at the high school building. The building’s core area, approximately 84,000 square feet of the building’s total 180,000 square feet, would be rebuilt for increased flexibility, security and seismic resistance, and classrooms outside of the building’s core would also receive updates.

A dated building

A facilities assessment and master plan of the Estacada School District’s buildings, completed by Dull Olson Weekes - IBI Group Architects this past January, outlines many ways in which the high school building is outdated.

The building dates back to 1962, and the facilities assessment notes asbestos in ceiling tiles, water-damaged roofing and outdated wire glass in many windows. Additionally, because it was built so long ago, it is not as seismically secure as it could be.

Leaders at Estacada High School have also noticed the building’s shortcomings and would like to see updates to the spaces where their students learn.

Principal Ryan Carpenter said the changes would benefit all classrooms, including specialized ones, such as science labs.

“With packed classrooms, it’s hard to do creative experiments,” he said. “Most of our science rooms were built as as chemistry labs, and we’re hoping to eventually have more flexible space for other programs, like engineering.”

Syring noted that updated lab space would help better engage students.

“We want students to be able to do more cutting-edge science experiments that will better engage them,” he said.

Carpenter is also eager to see updates to the school’s culinary arts classroom. He hopes to see it made “into more of a catering service style.”

“We hope to create entrepreneurial opportunities for our students to make banquet food for the community,” he said.

He noted that the school’s gymnasium would also benefit from updates.

“We want to make this a better community facility,” Carpenter said. “We host thousands of people outside of Estacada here for tournaments.”

New roofing and flooring would be valuable updates to the gym, as the floor cannot be sanded down any further, and particles from the roof insulation fall when a ball hits them.

Carpenter also pointed out several classrooms without windows, saying that these student learning environments would benefit from more natural light.NEWS PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - Popping mold infests the walls of this Estacada High School classroom. This and several other classrooms have been placed off limits for normal use and are instead used for storage of old textbooks, desks and other materials.

A significant finding in the facilities master plan, and something Carpenter said “keeps (him) up at night” is the main office’s location in back of the commons and away from the school’s main entrance.

According to the master plan, “There is no direct visibility to the entry points of the parking lots from the main office. There are many entry points in this school that might make it difficult to secure if needed.”

Carpenter explained that the main office’s location concerns him because it means the commons is not able to be secured as easily as he would like.

“Anyone could come in here and engage the whole student body,” he said.

Potential updates

If the bond passes, the high school’s core area would be reconstructed to provide students with a safer and more flexible learning space. The updated core would feature existing elements of the current high school building, such as the main office, visual arts room, dining hall, library, counseling center and commons. It would also feature new elements, such as additional study space for students, updated labs for science and career-technical education and an updated media center.

If the bond passes, Carpenter is eager to see the high school’s classrooms transformed into modern learning spaces. He noted that the high school currently has several of these spaces, in the form of two larger classrooms with removable walls.

“The space can be used in different ways,” Carpenter said. “Twenty-first century learning looks more like this.”

In the school’s redesigned core, the main office would be relocated to the front of the building, where the visual arts room is currently located, for enhanced security.

Classrooms outside of the building’s core would receive renovations and seismic upgrades, and the school’s total number of classrooms would remain about the same.

Additionally, the building will receive extensive roofing repairs, which would allow the three condemned classrooms to be used again.

High school students aren’t the only ones who would benefit from updates to the building. Additional seismic upgrades to the building would allow the space to function as an emergency shelter for the community.

A look at the numbers

If Measure 3-501 is approved by voters this November, the current tax rate would be raised from $2.02 to $2.19 per $1,000 of assessed property value. This means that the owner of a home with an assessed value of $250,000 would pay $547.50 per year, an increase of $42.50 over what they are already paying.

Additionally, if the bond passes, the Estacada School District is eligible for $4 million in matching funds from the state, which would also be used for capital improvements. If the bond measure is not passed, the district will not receive this money.

Approximately $47 million of the $55.1 million of the bond’s funding would be used for the partial reconstruction and renovations at Estacada High School. The rest would fund smaller renovations and updated at the district’s other schools.

By law, revenue raised through bond measures cannot be spent on payroll. Instead, bond revenue is reserved to finance capital projects, such as the building or renovation of schools. In other words, bond revenue can’t be spent on increasing wages for teachers or administrators.

Next steps

If voters approve Measure 3-501 in the Nov. 8 election, school district leaders say they would ideally like to see construction on the projects begin in the summer of 2017. Construction is estimated to take three years.

During construction, the district’s current plan is to relocate high school students to the current middle school building, and the middle school students to the old Eagle Creek Elementary School Building.

District leaders will host a town hall meeting at 6 p.m. Monday, Oct. 10, where they hope to encourage voters to learn more about the bond. The event will be at the Estacada High School Commons, 355 N.E. Sixth Ave.

Carpenter said the updates to the high school building would be a way to enhance student learning.

“I’ve lived in this community for seven years, and I’ve seen it grow and blossom,” he said. “Estacada is on the verge of something special, and we want our schools to reflect that. We want to play a role in bringing the community to new levels.”

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