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Corvallis schools have busy construction schedule in 2020
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Corvallis schools have busy construction schedule in 2020

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Construction of new buildings at Lincoln and Hoover elementary schools. A major renovation and expansion at Garfield Elementary School. And the first phases of renovations at Crescent Valley High School and Cheldelin Middle School.

All of these projects — and more — are scheduled to begin in 2020 as part of the Corvallis School District’s $200 million facilities bond.

Approved by voters in May 2018, the bond includes funding for projects including upgrading schools to modern seismic standards; building new secure entrances at some schools; adding dedicated cafeterias at most elementary schools that didn’t already have them; adding career and technical education spaces at secondary schools; and adding permanent classrooms to district elementary schools to eliminate the need for modular classrooms.

Garfield Elementary School

Kim Patten, director of facilities and transportation for the district, said work will begin at Garfield before school lets out for the summer. Contractors will be doing site preparation on the school’s field so that crews can move three existing modular classrooms and place eight additional modulars there to house students during construction, which will continue through the 2020-21 school year.

“Half the school will be in modulars,” she said.

According to Patten, the project will include construction of a new wing of classrooms near the gym, major renovations to the classrooms on the north side of the building’s east wing, and a redo of the school’s main entrance and office area. The renovation projects will continue inside the building through the year, which is why so much of the school will be in modular classrooms.

Signs of ongoing work will be present throughout the year, with temporary walls to keep students away from construction, a temporary main entrance and office in a vacant classroom, a construction fence on one side of the school’s blacktop, and modular classrooms two rows deep on the field.

“It’s going to feel a lot different here come September,” Patten told the Gazette-Times during a tour last week of the planned construction.

The modular classrooms will fill the view of anyone looking out the back of the school, said Dale Kuykendall with the Wenaha Group, the district’s project management firm for its bond projects.

Patten said even the school’s garden will have to be removed to make way for modulars, although she said the district is committed to rebuilding it. However, she added, the cafeteria and gym shouldn't be affected by construction, and most of the school’s blacktop and playground should still be available. The school’s parking lot expansion should be completed over the summer.

“This coming year is going to have some challenges, but we are going to come together through it and it’s going to be exciting to see that transition happen," she said.

Patten said when the work is finished for the fall of 2021, students will have a school that offers more opportunities. Remodels and expansions will create dedicated rooms for music and science and art, plus collaboration spaces for specialists to work with students outside of class, and a full-size library instead of a small library in a converted classroom. And no one will be studying in modulars anymore.

“I think students are going to feel appreciative of their new building,” she said.

Lincoln Elementary School

Another early sign of coming work, according to Patten, will be the demolition of the covered play area at Lincoln Elementary School, which could happen as early as spring break. This will make space for a new Lincoln Health Center building. The clinic, operated and funded by Benton County, isn't part of the district’s bond, Patten said, but construction will be aligned with other work at the school.

Crews will break ground this summer on the new Lincoln building, which is being built on the site of the school’s existing field. Construction will continue through the 2020-21 school year, with completion expected by the fall of 2021.

According to Patten, Lincoln students will continue to study in their existing building and modular classrooms during construction, but fencing will cut off part of the playground, with no field for play during the year. She said the district will likely place some new play equipment at the school before the year of construction.

“When you have less stuff for play, what you do have needs to be really engaging,” she said.

In addition to the smaller play area, Patten said congestion could have a large impact on the school community during the work. The district is working to mitigate this by limiting construction deliveries to outside peak school-traffic hours. Off-site parking and a shuttle service may be arranged for school staff and construction workers.

Patten said the district will also examine its evacuation and safe routes to school plans once construction fencing is installed. She added that the district will begin communicating with families about these issues in August to prepare them for the school year. Kuykendall said project managers, district staff and contractors are already communicating to ensure student safety. Stakeholders will have weekly meetings to collaborate during construction.

He added that when the project is complete, the school will have a building further from Highway 99W as well as much-improved pedestrian pathways.

“The campus will feel more like a park after hours,” he said.

Hoover Elementary School

Patten said groundbreaking on the new Hoover building will take place later in the summer than it will at Lincoln. Work is expected to be finished in time for the new school building to be occupied in the winter of 2022.

Kuykendall said the construction fence at Hoover will run through the area where the school’s modular classrooms are located, and the playground on that side of the school will be closed when the modulars are moved to fill the rest of that space. Hoover will have only its smaller playground, which is used by its primary-grade students during the year, and no field area.

“It has the least amount of play area of the three sites,” she said.

The district will add basketball hoops to available blacktop space and have a designated area for soccer. Patten added that the school’s administration is considering plans to address the limited play space, such as staggering recess times to limit the amount of kids on the playground at one time.

She added that congestion is also expected to be an issue at Hoover, and the district will encourage people to use neighborhood paths to the school or have students arrive by bus.

“It’s something I will say always: if you can walk or ride the bus, it is better,” she said.

Patten added that all three sites will post flaggers at construction-site entrances during peak travel times before and after school to help people walking cross safely.

Kuykendall said unlike some other cities, the district’s plan will keep students at their home school during construction instead of spreading them out to others, as has happened in Portland. He added that completing the new school and site-plan improvements will ease traffic and eliminate some of the safety concerns with the school's current open layout.

“When we talk about Hoover," he said, "the safety impacts are huge.”

Other projects

• Crescent Valley High School will undergo the first phase of improvements to its ceramics room and wood, metal and auto shop areas.

“The idea is to not shut down those spaces for an entire year because a lot of students would miss out on these opportunities," Patten said, "so we have a very complex phasing plan.”

The shops will be closed for part of a school year, but Corvallis High School will add capacity in its own related classes so that Crescent Valley students can take part in them by riding the shuttle that runs between the schools.

• Cheldelin Middle School's library and cafeteria are slated for upgrades, and the school is getting a new lab space for hands-on learning. Patten said the renovation schedule will be designed to not impact the school year, because the district knows Cheldelin can’t operate for a year without a library or cafeteria.

• Although it wasn't originally part of the bond promise, the district received a seismic grant from the state to upgrade the building that houses Muddy Creek Charter School, which is chartered to the district and operates in a district-owned building. The grant is for $903,000 and the total cost of the project will be $1.15 million, according to school board meeting materials from December. Patten told the school board at a recent meeting that the district will loan Muddy Creek the remainder of the cost, interest-free.

• New secure vestibules at Corvallis and Crescent Valley high schools, which also were not part of the original bond promise. The projects are expected to cost more than $352,000, with funds coming from the district’s construction excise tax revenue.

Bond financials

According to Brenda Downum, the district’s communications coordinator, these upcoming projects represent more than half of the funds involved in the bond.

She said early bidding for project packages at Garfield have shown the district’s budgets are accurate. The bidding for the remainder of projects at Garfield, Lincoln, Hoover, Chedlelin and Crescent Valley will all happen soon.

“This is a critical time, and our contractors, Fortis Construction and Gerding Builders, are working hard to attract the necessary bidders for our projects,” she said.

Downum added that the district staff recognizes that it's competing with other nearby districts with their own bond work underway.

“The market is expected to remain over capacity as districts work off their bond programs over the next three or four years," she said. "There has been strategic planning around this topic, to best position our projects in the bidding market."

The district adjusted its construction timeline this fall to add another year in which to complete projects, responding to the construction market, according to materials from a December meeting of the Corvallis School Board. The district originally planned to complete all of its bond projects by the end of 2021, but will now aim for the end of 2022. At its Dec. 19 meeting, the school board voted to give the Wenaha Group a one-year contract extension at a cost of $658,000 so the firm can manage bond projects for an additional year.

Anthony Rimel covers education and crime in Benton County and weekend events across the Mid-Valley. He can be reached at anthony.rimel@lee.net or 541-812-6091.

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