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Grading work and construction likely to begin on school site within weeks contractors said

SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: NICOLE THILL - A group of current and former Columbia County Education Campus students, St. Helens School District staff, school board members, consultants and contractors with HEERY International, Soderstrom Architechture and Triplett Wellman take part in a ground-breaking ceremony Wednesday, March 21. Grading and construction work is likely to begin within a couple of weeks on the new alternative high school campus. The St. Helens School District held a ground-breaking ceremony Wednesday, March 21, to commemorate the upcoming construction of a new alternative high school building.

A group of nearly 40 people gathered near the construction site just outside the Columbia County Education Campus Wednesday afternoon to take part in the ground-breaking.

Wearing white hardhats and holding golden shovels, a group of current and former CCEC students, school staff, school board members, contractors and consultants all helped shovel a pile of dirt on the site to signify the next phase of the process.

CCEC students Brycen Darby and Cheyenne Leite, who took part in the ground-breaking, said it was a special experience. Both students will graduate before the new classrooms are constructed, but said they are excited about what the new building means for the future of the school and other students who will attend.

Student Brianna Pruett, a junior, will have the opportunity to use the classrooms, which are projected to be done by early 2019.

"It feels really good. It's really special to me because I'm deaf ... and I just want people to know that anyone can be here," Pruett said. "I'm looking forward to everything."

Wyatt Mutt, a recent CCEC graduate who was also present Wednesday, said that although he won't get to be in the new classrooms, he's happy for future students who will be able to take classes in a new, high-quality building.

Currently, CCEC classes are held in a series of portables behind the school district office on 16th Street. Staff and school board members have already begun to discuss how to use two of the portables as a family resource center for the district, while the others will be removed, Stockwell explained.

In February, the St. Helens School District board of directors approved a construction contract with Woodburn-based contractor Triplett Wellman Inc. to complete the district's bond projects, including the new CCEC facility and a new middle school building. The bid came in at $39 million. The district will use the remaining bond funds to help pay for safety improvements and science lab upgrades at St. Helen Middle School.

Ryan Flosdorf, a project engineer with Triplett Wellman, said crews will likely be moving dirt on the site within a couple of weeks. The city of St. Helens has yet to issue building permits, but grading permits have been secured, he said.

Throughout 2017, board members worked with Heery International and Soderstrom Architects to design the new buildings.

The school district is planning a separate ceremony for the new middle school.

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