Caution: Learning zone in East County
The sunny summer weather allowed construction companies to make good progress on the new school buildings in the Reynolds School District, but not quite enough to keep thousands of children from attending school in construction zones this year.
"The project teams, including district and building staff, have all been working closely to accommodate occupancy during construction," said Linda Florence, Reynolds superintendent.
Reynolds is building three new elementary schools — Troutdale, Fairview and Wilkes — while Reynolds High School is undergoing a major expansion and upgrade. All this is being paid for with money from a $125 million facilities bond that voters approved for the Reynolds School District in May 2015.
"Significant progress has been made with all phases (of construction), and the projects remain on track for completion in the fall of 2018," Florence said.
The "new" Reynolds High School "is the most challenging site," noted Andrea Watson, the district's communications director. Yet, despite the construction, most of the entrances to the building are open and students amble in and out as usual.
The high school's busy commons area where students eat lunch and socialize is useable, but unfinished. It's strikingly different from the old commons, with the level of the floor raised in several areas and a new set of classrooms on one side. During a between-class period, students hustled through the area to their next classes with no problems.
Watson said the high school was short of classrooms before building began, so the construction makes it even more challenging. There are nine classrooms in temporary locations. For example, the college and career center reverted back to a regular classroom, and the career center is in temporary quarters elsewhere.
Although several of the main academic wings are a bit dusty, they are otherwise untouched by the major remodel. But some parts of the school are off limits for the 2,500 students and about 200 staff members because of construction. The normal front parking lot is a busy construction zone, and students and staff are squeezing in at other lots.
Reynolds High is getting new science and general classrooms, which are being built in the area between the old entrance to the school and the shop buildings. A makeover of the former science rooms wasn't finished by the start of the school year, but will be by the end of the month, Watson said.
Counseling and student-support services are moving from the old commons area to the new front of the school. Administration is getting new digs too, but administrators' walls are not yet up, and all campus buildings are being connected.
Construction is scheduled to be completed by the end of next summer.
"I am more than happy with where we are at, which is on schedule for fall 2018," Wade Bakley, Reynolds High School principal, said in an email.
Things are less challenging for the 1,250 students in the three new elementary schools. Playgrounds, parking lots and a gym have been cleared, and the new Troutdale, Fairview and Wilkes schools are being built on the newly empty ground.
Students are going to school in the old buildings while new ones are being built. In summer 2018, the three old schools will be razed and the new playgrounds, parking lots and drop-off routes will be added where the old buildings stood. Students will attend the new Troutdale, Fairview and Wilkes elementary schools that fall.
Neighbors and families going to Wilkes Elementary School might have to work around 169th Avenue closures for the next few months. Wilkes Road will remain open during construction. There is no parking on 169th Avenue during the day.
At Troutdale Elementary, the gym was torn down so the new school could be constructed. The library has been transformed into the gym and music room for this school year. The library has temporarily set up in room B6, a former classroom.
Fairview Elementary School lost its playground, so the school is getting some modular equipment that students can rearrange and play on. The school will get to keep this equipment when construction is over and the new playground is built.
As part of the construction, contractors will put in sidewalks all around the school, which the neighborhood did not have before.
Construction at this site was challenging, officials noted, because of the huge boulders in the area.
All schools are getting security upgrades. When students started school last month, most buildings had new secured vestibules that route visitors through the office instead of directly into the school building. There is still some finishing work left to do on some of the new entries.
For up to date information on the Reynolds bond projects, visit reynolds.k12.or.us/bondprojects.