It's hammer time for west side schools
The sounds of construction are echoing through several Hillsboro School District buildings this summer as more than a dozen schools go under the knife for makeovers, some large and some small.
Paid for by a $408 million bond voters approved in 2017, the district plans for every school to receive some sort of upgrade over the next five years, including everything from new security cameras and playgrounds to classrooms and renovated entrances.
According to Chief Financial Officer Adam Stewart, who is overseeing the work for the district, a total of 17 schools are being renovated this summer.
"There's a ton of stuff going on, and it will be inconvenient for those campuses over the summer," Stewart told the Tribune this week. "We're asking folks to keep the prize at the end of the rainbow in sight. It'll all be worth it."
Nowhere is the construction as extensive as Evergreen Middle School, 456 N.W. Evergreen Road, where crews have torn out the building's entrance, cafeteria, library and several classrooms.
Crews are beginning the early work on a new wing of classrooms at Evergreen, adding capacity for an additional 200 students.
"We didn't have the capacity to house all of our students we expect in the next few years," said Evergreen Principal O.J. Gulley. "Those 12 new classrooms are needed, and more importantly, the safety upgrades were're getting are needed to make sure staff and students are safe."
When students return to the school in the fall, the school will be equipped with new security cameras. External doors will automatically lock when class starts, Gulley said. Parents arriving at the school will need to be buzzed in by staff.
"We are so excited with all the changes," Gulley said. "It'll be really good. This is perfect timing."
Gulley described the work as "chaotic" but worth the wait.
"It's pretty sweet, I tell you," Gulley said. "It's exciting. It's super cool."
Gulley, who came to Evergreen four years ago, said by the time construction wraps up next year, the school will boast a dozen new classrooms, a newcomputer lab, a remodeled cafeteria and commons area and new parking.
"What we had before wasn't bad, but it was outdated," Gulley said. "The air conditioning was bad and the lockers were bad."
Several Hillsboro schools are expanding with extra classrooms. A brand new, larger Brookwood Elementary is being built next to its current location to allow for hundreds of additional students expected over the next several years. The district has said it plans to build a second elementary school in North Plains and several schools in the new South Hillsboro neighborhood currently under construction along Tualatin Valley Highway.
Construction will be the norm at Hillsboro schools for the next few years, Stewart said. Projects have been planned out through 2022. This summer carries the lion's share of projects across the district.
Stewart said most of the projects will be completed over consecutive summers to keep the impact to students at a minimum. Several school campuses will be closed to the public this summer, including students and staff, as construction continues. The closures begin next week and extend through August.
During the construction, Glencoe High School's offices will be temporarily relocated to Lincoln Street Elementary School, 801 N.E. Lincoln St., in downtown Hillsboro. Hillsboro High School's offices will be housed at South Meadows Middle School, 4690 S.E. Davis Road.
Some projects, Stewart said, will take longer than this summer to complete. The new classrooms at Evergreen will take 14 months to build. Construction is also under way at Glencoe High for a new entrance, media center and classroom space. Hillsboro High School has been under construction for months as crews build a new entrance at the school.
Seismic upgrades are under way at several older buildings, and parking lots are being redesigned across the district to allow for separate drop-off sites for cars and buses. New playgrounds are being built and eight elementary schools will receive new gymnasiums to move away from the age-old combination gym-cafeteria model used by several schools.
"There's quite the list of things we're working on," Stewart said. "As soon as kids and staff were gone for the summer we dove into these projects. We have projects going on all over the district."
Strewart said the district wanted to start work on the schools as soon as possible. Last year, work began on renovating the aging Reedville Elementary School, one of the oldest buildings in the district. Permitting and other logistical challenges pushed many projects to this summer, Stewart said.
"It wasn't realistic to get more than we could last year," Stewart said. "After the bond passed in November 2017, we went through design and permitting. I think we bit off as much as we could last summer, so this is the first full year we've had to get everything in place for construction."
The second elementary school in North Plains will break ground next year, and a new school in South Hillsboro will break ground in 2021.
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