Cordie: School construction during COVID-19
Construction during a bond is a challenging experience for school districts. Construction during a pandemic increases that challenge to new levels, unlike anything the Sherwood School District and its partners have ever experienced.
COVID-19 has impacted all aspects of our lives, and the construction projects happening throughout our district this year are no different. For example, social distancing guidelines must be adhered to, and that includes throughout all areas of our construction sites. Our skilled craft workers must complete their tasks wearing additional personal protection equipment (PPE), as well as maintaining at least six feet of space between themselves and their colleagues at all times.
With the tasks involved with construction, this requires some creative thinking on their part. One example of this at our new high school site was to plan landscape ground cover using a six-foot grid, ensuring that the workers placing the plants maintained social distancing, while also providing consistency in the ground cover of new plants.
Despite the challenges presented by the pandemic, the work at the new high school site is progressing. Currently, there are approximately 220 workers on-site, all adhering to safety precautions while advancing towards completion of the building this summer. Many classrooms are essentially complete, pending a final cleaning of the space. Work continues in all areas indoors, as well as across the campus; this includes work on the athletic fields, parking lots, and the courtyard — despite adjustments to accommodate social distancing best practices, it remains a busy work site.
Additionally, the county continues their work on the roads adjacent to the campus, and this work is scheduled to be completed by the middle of June. The completion of this work is a key component of the district's ability to begin to occupy the campus.
While COVID-19 presents new and unprecedented challenges, our current situation provides unexpected opportunities as well. Our Transformation projects are well underway, and while we have faced disappointment in having our schools closed through the remainder of the year, our empty buildings have allowed an opportunity to get a head start on the extensive construction happening across the district this summer.
Our construction timelines at all Transformation projects have been adapted, and by the time this article goes to press, you will likely have noticed construction activity at several of our buildings, including the Ridges campuses, the previous Sherwood High School building, the previous Sherwood Middle School building, and the previous Hopkins building.
Moving up our construction start dates at these sites provides extra time for our contractors to work, providing a buffer if unforeseen future impacts of the pandemic occur that influence the pace of the work.
As we dive into the construction work that will transform our entire district in the 2020-21 school year, and prepare for the opening of our new high school next fall, we continue to address the work in front of us during the current academic year. Our staff continue to provide distance learning to students at all grade levels, as well as exploring new options to address the social/emotional and mental health needs of our students. Our high school team, in collaboration with parents and students, are putting plans in place to help honor the accomplishments of our graduating class of 2020 — please watch for communication from the high school with more information.
Additionally, we are processing applications for open transfer spots in grades 9-12 for out-of-district students, which will remain open until filled. For more information on interdistrict transfers, please visit our website at sherwood.k12.or.us.
While nothing quite feels like "business as usual" during these challenging times, our district team is committed to finding solutions and progressing towards the finish line on the bond projects that have been years in the making. With the long-term closure this spring, bringing our students and staff back into our buildings in the 2020-21 school year is something we are looking forward to — and we are determined to be ready for that exciting time.
Heather Cordie is superintendent of the Sherwood School District.
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