Several WSD bond projects plagued with delays
The Woodburn School District has released an updated schedule for the construction projects funded by the $65 million bond approved by voters in 2015. The schedule was attached to the agenda packet for the April 6 work session.
The new Success Alternative High School building, originally scheduled to be done this summer, is now scheduled to be completed in 2018 or 2019. Exterior work is continuing on the new Welcome Center and District Office, of which the district has been a temporary occupant since mid-2016. The expansion of Washington Elementary School, originally scheduled to be completed in late 2017, is now scheduled to be completed in late 2018. Work on Nellie Muir Elementary School is being pushed back due to a housing development that will be coming to the area, which affects the district's ability to begin construction.
Despite those delays, some projects are on, or ahead of, schedule. The Woodburn High School fire restoration project is on track, with the classroom restoration and sprinkler system installation scheduled to be completed this summer. With Nellie Muir's work being pushed back, some smaller projects will be completed earlier than planned. In addition, Heritage Elementary and Valor Middle School's roofing upgrades are scheduled to be completed this summer, with the design phase to be completed this month.
Of all the construction projects, the new Success High School may have faced the most roadblocks since its inception. The city has denied two conditional use permit applications for the project, which have played a large role in the delay.
The first conditional use permit application, submitted in March 2016, was considered incomplete by the city because the district did not yet have access to an easement, which was necessary for fire and emergency access. After months of back-and-forth, the district finally gained access to that easement from a neighboring property owner last week.
In late March, the district received a second letter of incompleteness from the city in response to the district's second conditional use application. John O. Henri, construction manager for the bond projects, said the second letter of incompleteness came as a surprise, since none of the problems brought up by the city in the second letter were mentioned in the first letter, he said.
Henri said that when reviewing the second conditional use permit application for the Success property, the city didn't just examine the Success property, but also examined the adjoining Woodburn High School property. This stood in contrast to the city's consideration of the first conditional use permit, which only examined the plans for the Success building.
The solution to the city's problems with the conditional use permit application, Henri said, will be separating the Success property from the Woodburn High School property altogether.
"The intent to eliminate 90 percent of these (problems) is to partition the Success property from the high school property, and consolidate it with the Welcome Center property," Henri said at an April 6 school board work session. "That will eliminate 90 percent of these problems, because we're no longer associated with the high school property."
Henri said if they're able to begin construction this summer, Success will be completed next summer. If the conditional use permit is not approved by then, though, the project will be delayed until summer 2019.
And while the new Welcome Center and District Office has been in use throughout the 2016-17 school year, the district is still only considered a temporary occupant of the building because the HVAC unit, located on the roof of the building, is visible from the street. Permanent occupancy is contingent on the screening the HVAC unit, as described in the city's development ordinances.
Since the district did not account for the HVAC screen when remodeling the building, it was unclear how to screen the HVAC unit without compromising the roof. Henri came up with other possible solutions like reflective sheets that would essentially make the unit invisible, but those were turned down by the city.
However, Henri said a solution has been reached in which a wood column will be built underneath the HVAC unit that will support the weight of the screen. That can be done without too much disturbance to the building's occupants, Henri said.
Washington Elementary School's delays have been due to a number of factors, Henri said, including the district needing to purchase two properties adjacent to the school to gain better access to the site. Weather delayed some of the work on the site — the moving of the modular trailers was delayed due to winter weather, but was completed in January. The project is currently under review by the City of Woodburn's building department. Upon completion of that review, the project will be assigned to a contractor.
And, the project to demolish the nearby houses that will allow for better access to the site is underway — the protest period recently ended and that project will begin soon.
Henri said that these kinds of delays in a bond project of this scale isn't unusual.
"All of these projects are a remodel or an upgrade," Henri said. "It's a kind of difficult aspect of the project. We're not just building a brand new project out in a field."
In addition, Henri said another built-in challenge is that because all of the schools are at capacity, students can't be moved around until at least some of the projects are done.
However, with the arrival of spring, Henri said the projects are gaining momentum.
"We just want to keep moving forward," Henri said. "We're going to have a really busy summer."