Brookwood Elementary: Hillsboro's first new bond-funded school
In November 2017, voters in the Hillsboro School District passed a $408 million capital construction bond.
Now, nearly three years later, one of the district's key bond projects — a full replacement of Brookwood Elementary School — is almost complete.
On Wednesday, Aug. 19, about a week before builders were expected to officially turn the building over to the district, Brookwood Principal Emily Caldwell excitedly walked the grounds of the new school.
"We're all just so happy to be able to have this incredible building," Caldwell said, adding that it meets all of the bond's primary goals: to improve school safety and security, build for continued growth and provide students with a modern education experience with new technology and materials.
But with her face covering on, Caldwell said she was sad that students will not be able to access the new building when the fall semester starts. In late July, Superintendent Mike Scott announced the district will teach students remotely through at least the first quarter due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Between coordinating how Brookwood teachers will teach students at a distance and getting the building ready to eventually welcome students, the second-year principal has had a lot to think about in recent weeks.
"Really what I want this school to be is a community hub," Caldwell said. "There's an added challenge to do that from a distance, but staff is so excited to come back. We're just really looking forward to being in this building and getting to see what our kids can do with it."
One of the main features of the building that will make the school a community hub is the gym, which also has a performance stage and is separated from the cafeteria with a dividing wall that can be lifted.
The school was built to immediate occupancy earthquake performance standards, and with a modern kitchen, the cafeteria/gym space could be used as a community gathering place during an emergency, said Adam Stewart, capital projects officer for the district.
The 74,000-square-foot, two-story building can house up to 600 students, about 250 more than the school's enrollment last year.
The halls and classrooms receive abundant natural light.
The project cost $37 million, down about $5 million from the initial estimated cost.
As Caldwell walked between the school's 23 classrooms, many still filled with boxes to unpack, she imagined students moving about under the high ceilings.
The school has a large library, a STEM education lab, outdoor learning space, a video production space, rooms dedicated to assisting students with Autism Spectrum Disorder, and a glass-enclosed collaboration space, which Caldwell says teachers and students will decide how to use.
Areas outside classrooms also have large open spaces, almost like secondary classrooms, which Caldwell said can be used if teachers want to join their classes together for a lesson.
The new turf field currently has lines for soccer and baseball, and a covered play area has basketball hoops. A play structure was expected to arrive in the final days of construction.
The building also has security cameras throughout, and its main entrance directs visitors into the administrative offices before people can enter the hallways.
School officials kept one piece of the old building.
"So many people asked, 'What are you doing with the old Brookwood Elementary School sign,'" Caldwell said, adding that some current students' parents went to the old Brookwood school, which was demolished earlier this year. "That sign has sentimental value. We held onto it."
The architectural design of the school will be replicated at the new school in South Hillsboro, where construction will begin in 2021, and at the new North Plains Elementary School, which currently is undergoing a naming process, as construction started recently.
Stewart says renovations and additions at several elementary and middle schools are at various stages of construction. Also, construction on a new gym at the old North Plains Elementary School location will be finished soon.
Additions to Hillsboro High School recently were completed and construction at Glencoe High School is near completion, Stewart said.
Editor's note: This story has been updated to show that the total cost of the project was less than the initial estimated cost.
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