'It's going to be a beautiful school'
There has been construction at every school in the Lake Oswego School District throughout the summer, but no school received a more comprehensive remodel than Westridge Elementary. On Monday, Aug. 12, LOSD Executive Director of Project Management Tony Vandenberg held a meeting to inform Westridge parents and community members of the changes that have been made at the school.
Construction at Westridge is funded by the $187 million school bond passed by voters in May 2017 to address deferred maintenance issues that had accumulated over the years. The funds are designated to be used for capital investments at all schools, improving earthquake preparedness, and expanding or upgrading Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) equipment and facilities.
This summer, Westridge received a major interior and exterior renovation and a small addition to the building, which will be used by students in the DELTA student services program. Other construction included seismic retrofitting — the gym was upgraded to level 4 seismic capabilities, meaning it could be used immediately as a place to gather for shelter after an earthquake — and a brand new roof for the school building. Construction is still ongoing, but the school will be ready to open on time, according to Vandenberg.
"We've been very busy at the school all summer," he said at the Aug. 12 meeting. "This was a little more than a nine-week project that started the day after school was out. We moved everything out of the building in two or three days and then we began demolition."
Vandenberg said that the crews worked from the inside of the building out, to allow for new seismic reinforcement, upgraded bathrooms, and a brand new library and school entrance.
"Along the way we found some very interesting things," he said. "We found a lot of water intrusion into the building, dry rot, structural members that were rotted out, microbial growth on the exterior skin of the building."
Vandenberg said that the district expected some wear, because the building is 40 years old, but found more than they anticipated. "Crews completely re-sequenced their work in order to continue," he said.
Specifically, the district hired ServePro Fire and Water Cleanup and Restoration, which Vandenberg said was able to respond quickly to remove the rot and contain the problem by isolating the affected areas and using a negative air pressure chamber to push mold out.
"They pushed air through so we weren't further pushing the problem into the building as we were preceding," he said.
In the end, the water damage and mold caused a three-week delay in the Westridge project. "We had to recover," Vandenberg said. "Luckily, our contractor has experienced this in the past and they were able to respond."
The response? Adding more oversight groups, engineers and crew members. "In some rooms right now we have four or five trades all working in the same room together," Vandenberg said. "We're seeing work flow throughout the building continually and affectively. As of Aug. 1 we had put in 32,000 work hours. By the end of the summer it'll be about 51,000 work hours."
Vandenberg told parents that there's no need to worry about the mold that was exposed during construction. "We've deep cleaned and we're going to go through at least two more deep cleanings as we worked our way out of the school," he said. "We'll continue to test."
Senior Project Manager David Lageson added that testing was done by ServePro, and found nothing of concern. "Any surface that has been exposed to anything has been cleaned by them," he said. "We got a clear bill of health throughout."
In addition to the work done to remediate mold and water damage, there were structural supports that needed repairs. "We had to repair about 30 trusses in the building," Vandenberg said.
He said that the cost of the additional work will come from "unallocated reserves" and funds from other bond projects that have come in under budget. "We should be able to absorb that cost," Vandenberg said.
Despite the inconveniences and delays, he said the Westridge staff and neighborhood couldn't be more receptive and understanding, and thanked neighbors for putting up with the noise and traffic caused by construction. "This was a big coordination effort," he said.
Construction is now largely finished, with finishing touches to be added up until school starts, but Vandenberg said they will start moving equipment and furnishings into the school this weekend. "All of the classrooms will be moved in starting Friday, and on Aug. 19 staff will start moving in," he said. "We'll still have work happening. Finishes will be occurring, windows will be installed, but we won't be doing disruptive work. We'll be working closely with staff about what that work is and when it will be occurring."
Lageson said the inconveniences will be well worth it when people see the new interior of the school. "The changes we're making are just going to blow people away. The library is going to be gorgeous, the Makerspace is top notch," he said. "It's going to be a beautiful school. I think people are going to be surprised, but everyone should be happy with the changes."
The first look at the new and improved Westridge Elementary will be on the first day of school. Because minor work will be completed during off hours throughout September, an official open house has yet to be announced, but is tentatively planned for the first week of October. For more information on bond projects, visit www.losdschools.org/domain/1587/.
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