Link to Owner Dr. Robert B. Pamplin Jr.



Renovation will feature flexible learning spaces throughout

COURTESY PORTLAND PUBLIC SCHOOLS - A master plan concept drawing of Grant High Schools $81 million modernization, which will open for the 2019-2020 school year.

After upwards of 30 meetings of teachers, staff, parents, students and community members, the Portland Public Schools board unanimously approved a master plan concept for the Grant High School redesign on Tuesday evening, Dec. 15.

GHS is on-track to break ground in the summer of 2017 with students temporarily moving to the Marshall High School campus for two school years. The vacated Marshall campus is currently playing host to Franklin High School students, who will move back to their finished high school in time for Grant students to move in.

With approval of the master plan, the architectural firm, Mahlum Architects, will now enter the schematic design phase. The renovated GHS will reopen in fall 2019, as planned through the district’s $482 million bond program, approved by voters in 2012.

The $81 million in modernizations to GHS will also expand the building to almost 300,000 square feet and offer various classroom sizes, as well as flexible rooms that can be teacher offices or converted to classrooms. The high school’s projected enrollment, however, will remain at 1,700.

Additional square footage will be dedicated to a program for students who are medically fragile, a separate choir classroom, the AVID college-readiness program and gender-neutral restroom facilities. The district will also build a new gymnasium to the southwest of the main building.

In all, the number of regular-sized classrooms (for up to 32 students) could drop from 83 currently to 81, but with another seven rooms planned for teacher offices that could be converted to classroom space if needed. There will also be 10 smaller classrooms that could accommodate between five and 20 students.

The master plan concept would “thicken” the main building by adding a row of classrooms along the back, turning the central corridor into spaces for small group learning, research and access to technology.

The auditorium will also be renovated but will not expand.

GHS, originally built in 1923, is an Oregon Historic Site and Mahlum identified several features of the Classical Revival-style buildings that it wants to preserve, including the facade and public green space in the front.

But the redesign also aims to offer some aesthetic fixes, such as adding “as many skylights as we can possibly provide," Joanne Wilcox of Mahlum Architects told the board Tuesday.

“The back of the campus really needed a lot of help and healing," Wilcox added. The parking lot to the north would remain, but the central parking lot would make way for outdoor gathering and learning spaces, such as for gardens or for Career Technical Education (CTE) spaces.

The architects are still working on options for on-site athletic fields. Grant’s 10-acre footprint makes that difficult, but the Office of School Improvement is in the beginning stages of working with Portland Parks & Recreation on the possibility of using Grant Park for athletic fields.

The master plan process for Lincoln High School has just begun. Benson and Madison high schools’ first meetings are planned for January. Roosevelt High School will see some of the first new school buildings in the city in decades open for use in 2016.

More community meetings for the Grant High School schematic design process will begin with a workshop Jan. 9 from 9 a.m. to noon in the GHS library.

Board member Pam Knowles, who serves as a board liaison to the Design Advisory Group, joined a chorus of board members who were pleased with the process up to this point.

“I'm only hopeful that the rest of this goes as well as it has thus far," Knowles says.


A 2009 PPS Historic Building Assessment offers a fascinating look at the history of Grant High School.

Many of the school buildings in the district were built in the 1920s with an emphasis on fire safety and a grand, revivalist aesthetic. Portland Public Schools worked with the then-named Portland Parks and Playground to site the school in Grant Park.

The land cost $40,200 and the original building finished in 1923 cost a little more than $315,000 ($4.4 million in today’s dollars).

The city’s bricklayers went on strike, delaying the project several weeks, after the district attempted to cut costs by using a maintenance worker to lay bricks for a portion of Chapman School.

The high school was designed to be added on to, with the north wing, south wing, and auditorium added in the late 1920s. The original architectural plans for GHS called for chemistry, biology and physics labs, as well as rooms for learning domestic arts, bookkeeping, typewriting and a school store.

In the late-1950s and early 1960s, the school received several more buildings, such as a library and a new gym. In 1966 came a new science building and finally an auto shop in 1970.

Shasta Kearns Moore
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