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The Corvallis School District is in contract negotiations with two architecture firms for work that is part of the $200 million facilities bond approved by voters in May.

According to a staff presentation at Thursday night’s school board meeting, the district received proposals from 11 firms and interviewed those behind the top six rated proposals.

The highest-ranked proposals were from Pivot Architecture of Eugene, which proposed to perform design work for middle- and high-school renovations, and the DLR Group in Portland, who proposed a project package that included designing the new Hoover and Lincoln elementary schools, as well as expansions and renovations at the district’s other elementary schools. The district contracted with DLR in 2017 to run the facilities committee meetings that led to the bond proposal that went to voters.

Meeting materials said the district’s project management firm, the Wenaha Group of Pendleton, is conducting negotiations, including payment caps and project scope. The board will be asked to approve the contracts once completed.

Wenaha's Dave Fishel said the contract negotiations are taking a bit longer than usual because the firms are working together to align their sub-consultants, making the contracts more complex.

Kim Patten, the district's facilities and transportation manager, said this alignment will make the design processes easier because everyone will have the same set of technical specifications. She also said the district will begin recruiting for design guidance teams in October.

"So many people have been interested in design that we are really going to have to advertise well," she said.

Staff also unveiled tentative timelines for project work, including seismic upgrades at Adams, Jefferson and Wilson elementary schools in 2019; construction on Garfield's expansion in the fall of 2019 and construction of the new Lincoln and Hoover starting in spring of 2020.

Board member Judy Ball asked whether that pace of construction might frustrate members of the public who wanted to see work start sooner. Patten said it would take a while to start because the district deliberately didn't hire architects before it knew the bond would be approved.

"In our district we didn't want to make assumptions and spend money that might be better spent in the classroom," she said. "We also want to do it right the first time, and that takes time to get the design right and get enough feedback."

The board also discussed a proposal by Ball that the board adopt a policy protecting students from discrimination on the basis of their gender identity.

Ball said the board came to a consensus in the spring that she should draft the policy for the board to consider.

“In accordance with Oregon law, the Board requires that all classrooms, programs, activities, and employment practices be free from bias and discrimination on the basis of sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity. This policy for the District and its schools is designed to ensure a culture where transgender and gender nonconforming students feel safe, supported, and fully included, and to meet each school’s obligation to provide educational opportunities for all students without discrimination,” said the introduction of the proposed seven-page policy.

The district's middle- and high-school principals also spoke to their transgender and nonbinary students for feedback.

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"The overwhelming sentiment was gratitude that the district was taking this up and that someone was listening to them," said Matt Boring, Corvallis High School's principal.

The discussion also covered the difficulty of implementing parts of the policy, such as using students' preferred names and genders on school records.

In a report evaluating the policy, district staff said many systems have already been updated to reflect preferred names, but some records are based on legal names and are outside the district's control.

The board did not vote on the policy, but all members expressed support for it.

Two members of the public spoke in favor of the policy and urged the district to fund professional development for staff so they can implement it.

Darren Bland, Cheldelin Middle School's principal, echoed the importance of staff training.

"Staff are worried about supporting students, not because they don't want to, but because they are worried about doing it wrong, so we need to support them with as much information as possible," he said.

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Anthony Rimel covers weekend events, education, courts and crime and can be reached at anthony.rimel@lee.net, 541-758-9526, or via Twitter @anthonyrimel.

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