Suburban district opens doors to new school
North Clackamas School District's newest elementary school opened for business on Sept. 3 with a stamp of approval already in place from the students who will spend the coming year there.
The students and their families were treated to a sneak peak of Beatrice Morrow Cannady Elementary School at 18031 S.E. Vogel Road in Happy Valley during a ribbon-cutting ceremony held Aug. 29. During the event, students had a chance to meet their teachers, visit their future classrooms and explore the 61,700-square-foot building, which was named after the first African American woman to graduate from law school in Oregon.
The $31 million school, one of several district projects made possible when voters passed a $433 million bond in 2016, was finished on time and under budget, according to NCSD Superintendent Matt Utterback. Robinson Construction oversaw construction for the project, which broke ground in May 2018.
The building is a mix of one- and two-story sections. The main entrance, featuring an oversized image of Cannady on one wall, leads into a one-story central circulation hall area and main office. The two-story wing to the east contains classrooms and a library and media center, while a one-story wing containing a cafeteria and a gymnasium lies to the west.
Throughout the entire school, structural forms and extensive glazing allow natural light to fill main areas of the building such as the gymnasium, according to Brett Lundmark, who served as project designer for the project architect, BRIC Architecture.
"The approach really contributed to the success of the gymnasium design, where the combination of architectural and structural elements came together to create a wonderfully unique space," Lundmark said.
Natural daylighting also is a key element in the library area, the portion of the project design that Lundmark called the "most fun and challenging." Designers took advantage of the library's two-story volume to give the space its unique feel, while also allowing it to serve as a connection to other parts of the school, from classrooms to common areas. Among the unique features of the space are colorful murals, hassock seats in bright tones, and cut-out areas in a wall where students can curl up to read books.
The entire building boasts extensive use of wood, including cross-laminated timber (CLT) that was manufactured by an Oregon company. CLT is made by gluing pieces of wood at 90 degrees angles and then applying high pressure to the panel. The result is a sustainable building material that is strong, but also lightweight.
"The school district actually approached about using (CLT)," Lundmark said. "It was a slam dunk; we were all on board."
One of the biggest challenges of the project rose even before construction began, according to Lundmark. The size of the 7.96-acre original site that the school district purchased in 2008 for $1.58 million, proved to be too small to accommodate a school that would be able to offer a 550-student capacity. As a solution, the district was able to acquire an additional 2.4 acres of land from a neighbor for $230,000.
The new elementary school is in a part of Happy Valley that is being transformed by mixed-use development.
In 2016, a 144,000-square-foot Fred Meyer opened as an anchor tenant of Gramor Development's Happy Valley Crossroads, an $80 million, 34-acre retail and restaurant development on the northwest corner of Sunnyside Road and 172nd Avenue. The development is adjacent to a 168-unit multifamily apartment complex nearby.
Gramor has plans to break ground this fall on Happy Valley Crossroads East on a 5.5-acre piece of land on the northeast corner of the intersection. Slated for completion in 2020, the 62,000-square-foot center will feature six new commercial buildings with tenants focused on fitness, food, shopping and medical and professional services.
The development activity has drawn a highly diverse population, which is something that the new elementary school plans on celebrating, according to Principal Dianna Ngai.
"This will be a diverse school where everybody belongs," Ngai said. "I really want to make this a school where all students and (their families) feel safe, welcome and valued."
Kimberley Mangun, a Utah State University professor, told the crowd gathered for the ribbon-cutting that naming a school after Cannady was a fitting choice. In addition to her law background, Cannady is celebrated as an early 20th-century civil rights activist, a movement she promoted through her position as editor of a newspaper called The Advocate that was Oregon's largest African American newspaper at the time.
"She believed children could change the future by working, playing and learning together," said Mangun, who has written a biography about Cannady.
Kathy Wai, vice-chair of the North Clackamas School Board, pointed to the board's recent work to create a stance on equity as dovetailing with Cannady's work related to civil rights.
"She was an amazing woman of color," Wai said during the ribbon-cutting event. "We hope she continues to be an inspiration, and that her legacy will live on in our young people."
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