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Replacing the old

Riverdale Elementary School campus will be torn down and replaced with a new two-story building

A few weeks ago there had been hope of a compromise, but Tuesday, the Riverdale School District stuck with their original decision to demolish the 1920 grade school constructed by famous Portland architect A.E. Doyle.

'If there weren't the Doyle building it would be a slam dunk,' said Steve Klein about the difficulty in making the decision. 'I can take a gamble and have a fragmented facility and have a smaller percentage of the community happy at the expense of educational program, but it would be taking some sort of a dice roll… to gain a shell of a building that is right now not serving our needs.'

At a meeting in September, the school board, which has been exploring options for a renovation since the previous September, recommended tearing down the main Doyle building and the outlying buildings to replace them with a brand new building. The board felt that they had to give voters a more complete picture of what the $21 million bond measure would pay for before the November election.

An initial estimate in February said preserving the façade of the Doyle would cost about $1 million. The board had been looking at keeping the façade ever since they first started planning, said Board Chair Chris Hall. However, this spring their planning took a turn when they realized how preserving the building could mean sacrifices to the vision they had for educational programs.

At the meeting on Tuesday, Mahlum Architects presented two updated options to the board that included a renovation of the Doyle. Both options were more expensive than the replacement option, which is estimated around $18.2 million.

The first renovation option, which put all of the classrooms in a second two-story building, had more square footage and came in around $20.5 million. This model left the Doyle to become a community room, district administration offices, a media center and other uses.

The second option portrayed K-2 in the Doyle building and constructed a smaller second building with grades 3-8. This version rang up at $19.2 million and didn't include a multi-purpose room.

Board Member Sarah Bradley favored keeping the Doyle saying that the neighbors who were rallying for saving the Doyle building should be called upon to raise money to build the multi-purpose building in the future. Bradley was the only one who voted against the decision to replace the Doyle.

The other board members were concerned about the greater potential for cost overruns by undertaking a renovation. Bremik Construction, who has the bid for the project, included $320,000 into the contingency for a renovation anticipating some surprises, and the district has its own contingency for the totality of the project.

Another concern was the challenging time frame. Bremik would need to plan for double shifts so students could be in the new building by fall of 2010. If the project had any hang up, the district might be forced to continue renting the Smith Elementary building from Portland Public Schools at a cost of $40,000 a month. This expense is not something that can be paid for with bond funds, but could be recovered from grants or tax credits.

Klein brought up the cost overruns that happened in the late 90s during the high school construction out of concern that the same might happen again.

Hall agreed. 'There are other things that we need to get done I see more potential of doing that with a lower number that gives us the most flexibility and starts us fresh from a campus perspective,' he said.

The original building was built for 50 students, said Superintendent Terry Hoagland. The current enrollment of 320 students has meant multiple additions and renovations to the main building, as well as, the construction of five other buildings on the campus.

To name a few things, the building is plagued with aging boilers, corroded pipes, a leaky roof, inefficient insulation, limited classroom space, outdated electrical systems, seismic concerns and unsafe building placement.