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Residents share their visions for improving school facilities

Sesimic upgrades are a priority, long-range planning committee is told, but moving to one high school is not

REVIEW PHOTO: JILLIAN DALEY - Randy Miller, the school district's executive director of project management, spoke briefly at a Nov. 19 public meeting concerning district facilities before ceding the floor to Karina Ruiz, a principal at the district's architectural firm, Dull Olson Weekes-IBI Group Architects Inc. Ruiz offered attendees on overview of the committee's activities.When Lake Oswegans spoke out about the future of school district facilities last week, two things became clear: Seismic improvements are a priority, and moving to one high school is not an appealing option.

Half a dozen community members attended the Long Range Facilities Planning Committee meeting on Nov. 19. The event featured an overview of the committee’s visions for the district’s 17 buildings, which need at least $98 million in repairs and seismic upgrades, according to a report released last month.

The committee also shared its work to date as it moves toward recommending specific projects for a bond measure that could go before voters in November 2016.

Lake Oswego resident Taylor Finley told the committee a new school might be worth the investment in some cases and that earthquake-resistant schools are crucial. Experts say a major earthquake is likely to strike the Pacific Northwest within the next few decades.

“I’d want my kid — he’s only 2 now — to be in a school that I know is safe,” Finley said.

Lake Oswego resident Victor Nelson said he does not support Vision 3, one of a trio of possibilities created by the committee for the district’s future. It suggests going from two high schools to one, from two junior highs to one and from six elementary schools to five within 10 years.

“Vision 3 really has me concerned with how this will impact the Lake Oswego School District,” Nelson said. “And how will this possibly impact property values?”

Joel Howie, another Lake Oswego resident, said he was also concerned by Vision 3.

“I saw Vision 3 up there, going to one high school, and I’m absolutely against that,” Howie said. “And I’m sorry that’s up there.”

The committee’s Vision 2 would involve building replacement schools for Oak Creek Elementary (which has leaking roofs and other water intrusion issues) and Lakeridge Junior High (which has cracked walls). This vision also would involve keeping the schools configured as they are today and repairing schools according to the committee’s recommendations.

Vision 1 is essentially the same as Vision 2, but does not include replacing buildings.REVIEW PHOTO: JILLIAN DALEY - Randy Miller, the school district's executive director of project management, shares details at a public meeting about district facilities before a PowerPoint presentation by Karina Ruiz, a principal at the district's architectural firm, Dull Olson Weekes-IBI Group Architects Inc.

In order to place a bond measure on the ballot, the district is required by the state to create a 25-year Long Range Facilities Plan, which involves evaluating existing facilities and planning how the student population will be housed in the future. The Facilities Planning Committee, taking community input into account, is scheduled to complete its work on the plan and present it to the school board on Jan. 25.

“It’s a great opportunity to use that (state) requirement to think bigger, think deeper, think broader about what we want to achieve for our students in the school district,” said Karina Ruiz, a principal at the district’s architectural firm, Dull Olson Weekes-IBI Group Architects Inc.

“What is our vision and guiding principles?” Ruiz asked. “And how are those helping to shape the work that we have moving forward? (We’re) looking at specific areas of development from a teaching and learning perspective, and then also from a facilities perspective.”

Lake Oswego resident Rachel Shafer said she knows which schools she wants to see taken care of first, since the high schools are in better shape than the K-8 schools.

“I want to see elementary and middle schools prioritized above high schools, because I think we’ve already invested a lot in high schools,” Shafer said.

One thing Lake Oswego resident Paul Shearer asked that the committee avoid is “unique architecture.” Shearer said it gave him pause when he saw the phrase crop up in some materials. He said round or door-less rooms have been among such creative endeavors in local schools; they were “a disaster,” he said, and had to be changed later. He recommended sticking with simple, square rooms.

“The biggest mistake and the biggest money-waster and the biggest problem we’ve had in this district in the past 25 years is unique architecture,” Shearer said.

Ruiz shared some of the topics the committee had covered in previous meetings, including sustainability, capacity, school configuration and school safety and security. When it comes to safety, Lake Oswego Sustainability Network co-founder Jan Castle told the committee, the district should commit to making school gyms strong enough to serve as emergency shelters after an earthquake.

“I think having these nodes out in the neighborhoods where people can access them will be an extremely helpful thing in the event of a big one,” Castle said.

School facilities seem to need shoring up against earthquakes. The district is facing at least $47 million in seismic upgrades and $51 million in brick-and-mortar maintenance to its facilities, which was deferred during the Great Recession when the district opted to concentrate funds on academics and personnel. The cost estimate — which covers all buildings in the district but does not include an additional 30-35 percent in soft costs such as staffing, design and permits — was included in the Facility Condition Assessment, a required part of the district’s 25-year Long Range Facilities Plan.

Ed Hutson, the chairman of the Long Range Facilities Planning Committee, said the final plan is coming together well. The 33-person committee, which first met Sept. 16 and has held several sessions since then, includes principals, parents, classified staff, sustainability experts, city employees, facilities experts, students and teachers.

"The feeling that I have, and I can’t speak for everyone, is that we’ve got an opportunity here to throw out some big ideas. And not to say that they’ll all come to fruition, but it’s definitely worth talking about,” Hutson said. “It’s worth presenting. We’re getting toward some visions and some options that we’ll be able to present to the board, which is exciting."

Contact Jillian Daley at 503-636-1281 ext. 109 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..