Beaverton school board weighs tearing down historic building
Out with the old, historic buildings — in with the new?
The Beaverton school board at its Monday, Nov. 14, meeting is set to consider taking the first step in what could result in the demolition of the historic Merle Davies Building next to Beaverton High School.
Planning continues for district projects under the bond measure passed in May, which includes a completely new Beaverton High School building, next door to the existing building. To make room, the board is considering tearing down the former elementary school opened nearly 85 years ago.
The board is set to consider whether to declare the Merle Davies Building as surplus property to make room for the new school, setting in motion the ability for the district to "dispose" of the structure.
Part of the scope for the design team of the new Beaverton High School was to determine whether the Merle Davies Building is "historic."
As a local historic structure, as determined by the city of Beaverton in 1991, the district will need to file a historic review application for demolition.
Part of the criteria to allow for the demolition includes that the "economic, social, environmental, and energy consequences of allowing the demolition outweigh the preservation of the historic landmark," according to the city code.
The district will also be required to make the building available for purchase, to be moved to another site.
"If no person(s) proposes to acquire and move the structure, the district will demolish the building consistent with the development plants for the site at a future date," the district proposes in the packet for Monday's school board meeting.
While Beaverton considers the Merle Davies Building to be historic, according to a presentation available ahead of Monday's meeting, it has been determined that the building is not eligible to be placed on the National Register of Historic Places. A reason was not listed, but the presentation states that the "interior has almost no remaining historic elements."
Since the 1980s, the Merle Davis Building has served as additional classroom space for the neighboring high school.
The school board had considered renovating the building in 2007, a year after it was shut down for renovations due to seismic and air quality concerns. The building reopened with the updates in September 2010.
The elementary school-turned-annex opened in 1938 after the Beaverton Grade School, built in 1910 near Second Street between Stott and Erickson avenues, was hitting capacity.
As the new school was nearly complete, renamed as the district was wrapping up construction on the new elementary school. The Beaverton Enterprise archives show the names "Merle Davies School" and the "C.E. Mason School" — in 1992, turned into the Arts & Communications Magnet Academy, before a new school building was built with money from the most recent Beaverton School District bond — were chosen in February 1949, while Davies was still principal there.
Davies was a lifelong Beaverton resident, according to a Washington County cultural resource inventory filed in 1984. Her family settled in the Scholls area in 1853.
Davies was born in 1891, and six years later, her family moved into a home on Farmington Road.
She first taught in Banks, but she quickly moved back to Beaverton, where she taught the fifth and sixth grades at the original Beaverton Grade School in 1916. She became the principal there in 1923.
When the original Beaverton Grade School was torn down, Davies became the principal at the new one.
Davies retired in 1957, eight years after the name of the school was changed in her honor. She died in 1982.
After years as an elementary, it came to be used as an annex and overflow space for Beaverton High School in 1983.
Plans for the new school
Beaverton High School itself is more than a century old, having been dedicated in 1916. Over time, deferred maintenance needs have piled up at the old school. The district estimates it would cost $53 million just to address the known issues right now.
So, instead of rehabbing the current structure, the district is looking to build an entirely new 292,000-square-foot building for $253 million using the voter-approved bond in May.
The exact footprint of the new building has not been finalized, but it is expected to be three or four stories tall and have 36 classrooms, plus seven more for specialized instruction like science or career-technical education, according to the district website. It will likely also have solar panels and a new football field and soccer field.
Construction is expected to begin in summer 2024 and be completed by fall 2026.
Once the new building is open, the current high school will be demolished and turned into a parking lot or used for other, unspecified, programming.
The parking lot and fields will be done by fall 2027.
Students will be able to learn at the current high school while the new building is constructed.
The new Beaverton High School will have a capacity of 1,500 students, with the possibility of future additions that would allow for up to 2,200 students, according to the school district.
As of the 2022-23 school year, Beaverton High School has 1,430 students enrolled, according to an October district report. The school had just over 1,500 students enrolled just prior to the pandemic, the 2018-19 school year, and in 2020-21 had 1,508.
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