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'A maintenance nightmare'

LOSD faces millions in repairs to its elementary schools, where problems include leaky roofs, crumbling walls and rotting wood

REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Lake Grove Elementary School Principal Carol Whitten points out to Randy Miller, the district's executive director of project management, deferred maintenance issues including 'biological growth' of some kind on the bricks and rotting frames around windows.Editor's Note: Facing at least $98 million in needed repairs and seismic upgrades at its 17 buildings, the Lake Oswego School Board will soon have to decide what projects to include on a bond measure in November. Over the past several months, The Review has focused on those buildings in a series of articles. Today: the primary schools.

Oak Creek Elementary School Principal Lilian Sarlos prefers to focus on the positive when it comes to her building’s needs.

Sarlos has plenty of ideas for educational upgrades to improve learning for her students. She’d love to see more areas for small groups to meet, improved acoustics and a covered outdoor learning area. But it’s true, she says, that water penetrating the walls has caused extensive damage to the school, and that repairs are desperately needed.

“It’s just time to do it,” she says.

Because of design flaws in its construction, Oak Creek is in the third-worst condition of any building in the Lake Oswego School District and the worst of any local school, according to a report prepared for the district. The school is considered to be in “critical” condition, with at least $9 million in needed repairs. In fact, it’s in such bad shape that officials are contemplating a full replacement — to the tune of $43 million.

“It has created a maintenance nightmare,” says Randy Miller, the district’s executive director of project management.REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Oak Creek Elementary School Principal Lilian Sarlos says she prefers to focus on the positive, but she does wish the cathedral-high wall of windows in the library had blinds, and the water damage needs to be addressed. These two-paned windows in the school library are not tinted but are discolored by moisture damage.

But Oak Creek is not the only elementary school with a laundry list of millions of dollars in deferred maintenance. Every other elementary school in the district is classified in “poor” condition, each needing between $3.7 million and $5.94 million in repairs.

Most of the schools need basic security upgrades, because they have no sight line from the office to the front door, no key-card entry and few cameras. “Biological growth” of some kind is creeping across the bricks at Lake Grove, while mortar in the exterior brickwork at Forest Hills is pocked and crumbling. Windows at Westridge, Hallinan and Oak Creek are either cracked or nearly permanently opaque, misted over from the long-term effects of water intrusion.

“You would be concerned,” Westridge Principal Tin Kha says, “if this was your home.”REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Westridge Elementary School's siding is rotting in some areas and has fallen off in places, creating holes like missing teeth on the side of the play canopy.

As part of the process for placing a bond measure on the ballot in November, the district last year conducted a Facilities Condition Assessment (FCA) of its 17 buildings (18 if you count Bryant Elementary separately from Lakeridge Junior High, where it’s currently the sixth-grade campus). The report found at least $98 million in brick-and-mortar repairs and seismic upgrades are needed, not including 30 to 35 percent more in soft costs such as design work.

The FCA used rankings of “good,” “fair,” “poor” or “critical” to rate each building. Only Lake Oswego High was considered to be in “good” condition, and only Lakeridge High was found to be in “fair” shape. Both junior highs were rated in “poor” condition; so were all of the elementary schools except Oak Creek.

A Bond Development Committee still is in the process of prioritizing which projects to put on a bond slated for the November ballot and how many dollars the district will seek from voters. But committee members have made one thing clear: Elementary and junior high schools will be the focus this fall, because LOHS was rebuilt and Lakeridge was remodeled using funds from an $85 million bond measure that passed in 2000.

“I think the sense is that it’s (the other schools’) turn, and I do hear that coming from the community,” committee member Jan Castle says.

That’s good news for administrators at the elementary schools, who are quick to praise students and families for their support but also acknowledge the struggles they all face together on a daily basis.REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Hallinan Elementary School has gotten an upgrade from parents and community members with fresh, brightly colored paint in some places, but there is still much work to be done to address issues such as this discolored brick.

At Lake Grove, for example, Principal Carol Whitten notes that parents raised funds themselves to buy window units for particularly stuffy rooms at the school, including the library. (No elementary school except Oak Creek, which was built in 1991, has air conditioning.) She says it makes a huge difference to have cooler buildings and that community volunteers offer so much support, such as providing the school with updated technology and new playground equipment.

But there’s so much more to be done, she says, with a leaking roof, rotting wood siding, “biological growth” of some kind living on the bricks and an unstable cover on the front walkway. A couple of load-bearing walls are constructed with glass bricks, which probably wouldn’t do well in an earthquake, Miller says.

Since it’s located in a commercial area, there has been talk about how lucrative it could be to someday sell this “very loved school,” Whitten says.

“It makes staff nervous; it makes parents nervous,” she told The Review, “because this is a neighborhood. But they know what the (possible) reality is.”

Here’s a look at the reality facing each of the district’s elementary schools, according to the FCA report:

REVIEW PHOTO: JILLIAN DALEY - The mortar in-between the bricks at Forest Hills Elementary School is powdery and falling out.

Forest Hills Elementary School

Built: 1946, remodeled 1990, 2004, 2013

Building Condition: Poor

Repair costs: $5.28 million

Enrollment: 459 K-5 students (March 2016, district report)

Staff: 43 people

A wide variety of community groups routinely use Forest Hills, including Weight Watchers; adult and youth basketball; First Addition and Birdshill neighborhood associations; the Community School, which has adult and children’s programs; Cub Scouts; Girl Scouts; and Extended Day, a before- and after-school program for elementary school children, says Nancy Duin, the district’s communications director.

Some of the maintenance issues at the heavily trafficked school include a play canopy that not only has a rotting ceiling but is also seismically deficient — it’s built right next to the school and rests against it, but is not actually connected to it.

Needed roof repairs and seismic upgrades total $3.5 million alone, according to the Facilities Condition Assessment report. Canopies covering back entrances have deteriorated to the point of having to be removed. Brickwork is stained, and now-powdery mortar between the bricks is falling out. Extensive painting and carpet replacement are required inside, the report states.

Other issues at the one-story, 50,695-square-foot school can be spotted more easily during the school day, when first-grader Brandon Perlewitz is forced to mount a two-step ladder (with an adult hovering nearby) to stow his backpack on a hook because there’s not enough storage space. Or when third-graders Harley Genovese and Emmeline DesJardins can be spotted on the floor in the hallway because there’s no quiet place for them to go if they want to concentrate more fully on their studies.

“Our teacher said we could work in the hall,” Harley says. Adds Emmeline, “We want more peace.”

Parking is scarce in the lot, so parked cars line Andrews Street on both sides, thinning an already narrow street to the extent that school staff use cones to make it a one-way road during pick-up and drop-off times.

“It’s such a tight squeeze,” says head secretary Wende Milner, who’s been stationed at Forest Hills for 20 years.

REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Barbara Collins serves a Hallinan Elementary School student lunch in the hallway because there is no place for kids to pick up their lunches, such as a large kitchen, says Sara Deboy, principal.

Hallinan Elementary School

Built: 1980, no remodels (except PTO-funded beautification project in 2015)

Building Condition: Poor

Repair costs: $3.77 million

Enrollment: 444 K-5 students (March 2016, district report)

Staff: 47 people

Hallinan is another heavily-used school. Groups that regularly occupy the building include the Lake Oswego School Employees Association (school district’s classified union), Lake Oswego Sustainability Network, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, Hallinan Heights and Glenmorrie neighborhood associations, Unicycle Club and Community School French and Spanish students, Duin says.

The 46,712-square-foot, one-story structure is in need of $1.1 million in architectural roof repairs and $1.79 million in seismic rehabilitation work. It’s also lined with cracks in the brickwork, and windows are fogged up from rain leaking in between double-paned glass.

But what may not be evident on a deferred maintenance list is the lack of a kitchen and serving area that’s big enough for cafeteria workers to prepare and serve meals, says Principal Sara Deboy. Meals are served in the carpeted hallway instead.

Space is an issue elsewhere, with insufficient room for storage and for students to collaborate on projects. Deboy says she also would like to see improvements to technology infrastructure, because “that can contribute the most to learning.”

Still, Deboy is generally happy with her school, which parent volunteers recently overhauled with new paint, new landscaping and even a "yarn storm," which involved covering columns and railings in colorful textile creations.

“It is really in beautiful shape comparatively, and it’s hard for me to complain,” Deboy told The Review. “I love this place, and we have amazing things going on.”

REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Lake Grove Elementary Schools soffits, the under-side of the eaves, are in need of maintenance.

Lake Grove Elementary School

Built: 1949, remodeled in 1990

Building Condition: Poor

Repair costs: $5.94 million

Enrollment: 426 K-5 students (March 2016, district report)

Staff: 61 people

Besides the leaking roof, decaying wood siding, unidentified natural growth on the bricks and the unstable front walkway cover, there are severe structural issues at 67-year-old Lake Grove.

About $2.76 million in “extensive” seismic rehabilitation is needed in areas that include an unreinforced masonry chimney and the roof, according to the FCA report. In addition, $47,790 more in seismic upgrades are needed to the covered play structure, and $1.32 million is required for architectural roof repairs.

Despite its many needs, the 61,652-square-foot, one-story school gets a lot of use. Groups that spend time in the building include Girl Scouts, adult basketball players, students in dog-training classes, adult volleyball classes offered through the City, Community School classes (art, athletics and academics) and the Waluga Neighborhood Association and Auburn Hill Home Owners Association, Duin says.

“It is a very loved school,” Whitten says.

REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Because of a flaw in the design of how Oak Creek is built, water leaks into it where there is no cover above the crack where the exterior wall and roof join.

Oak Creek Elementary School

Built: 1991, no remodels

Building Condition: Critical

Repair costs: $9.04 million

Enrollment: 547 K-5 students (March 2016, district report)

Staff: 75 people

Because of design flaws when it was built — including not covering the tops of walls where they meet the roof — rain is bleeding into Oak Creek.

“From a water intrusion standpoint,” Miller says, “it’s our worst school.”

The damage is so severe that several experts hired by the district have recommended replacing the entire school. The FCA estimates the replacement cost, not including soft costs, at $17.35 million. But a detailed estimate by the district’s architect, Dull Olson Weekes-IBI Group Architects Inc., puts the cost at $32.53 million, or $43.34 million including soft costs such as personnel.

Principal Lilian Sarlos says some areas simply lack foresight. For example, the library has a cathedral-high wall of double-paned windows that let in lots of light, but that’s a problem if someone wants to hold a PowerPoint presentation there.

“Our library is so beautiful,” she says. “It’s the pride of our school. But there are no blinds.”

Despite those maintenance and design flaws, the FCA report says Oak Creek is the best of any school in the district other than Lake Oswego High in terms of “educational adequacy.” That ranking focuses on areas including technology, learning environment, physical characteristics, capacity and security, and indicates that Oak Creek’s layout has a lot to offer the kids and community members who use the school.

Groups that frequent the 68,040-square-foot, two-story structure include Boy Scouts, Soccer Shots, The Meadows Homeowners Association, a graduate course for teachers, Community School classes, Oak Creek Neighborhood Association and Lake Oswego High School basketball, Duin says.

REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - The mechanical systems at Palisades Elementary School, which is currently being leased by the Lake Oswego Parks & Recreation Department, has ancient steam boilers that are original to the building, said Randy Miller, the district's executive director of project management.

Palisades Elementary School

Built: 1959, remodeled in 1990

Building Condition: Poor

Repair costs: $4.94 million

Enrollment: None

Currently leased to the City’s Parks & Rec Department, Palisades is one of three elementary schools — along with Bryant and Uplands — that were shuttered during the Great Recession to save money. Its steam boilers are practically antiques, Miller says, and a chimney wrought of unreinforced masonry probably would topple in an earthquake. But because of the money the City has invested, the building “is actually in really nice shape.”

The 45,680-square-foot, one-story school needs improvements to the roof for better drainage, raising the slope in some areas with items called “crickets.” Wood doors and wood frames need to be replaced, according to the FCA report, which also identified $1.96 million in needed structural repairs, including seismic rehabilitation.

Other deficiencies include a cracking ramp and sidewalk, cracking in exterior brick veneer and an unreinforced masonry chimney on the roof above the cafeteria that should be removed.

One thing that makes Palisades stand out is that 20 percent of its repairs are mechanical in nature. Only Uplands, at 21 percent, ranked higher, with most schools falling in the 2-11 percent range. The $973,650 in mechanical improvements include replacing some heating ventilators and top centrifugal exhaust fans, as well as the steam boilers.

Original to the school, the boilers actually run with steam and are “so old” they were previously powered by oil, though they have been upgraded to natural gas, Miller says.

Despite some of these issues, though, Palisades is in far better shape than its sister school because of the dollars the City has invested.

“You can see a difference compared to Uplands,” Miller says.

REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - River Grove Elementary School Principal Gwen Hill says there is no clear sight-line from the school office to the parking lot, which is a safety issue.

River Grove Elementary School

Built: 1968, remodeled 1990

Building Condition: Poor

Repair costs: $4.71 million

Enrollment: 487 K-5 students (March 2016, district report)

Staff: 49 people

One of the issues at River Grove, which also serves as headquarters for the district’s Spanish Immersion Program, is the lack of space. The district years ago approved adding on-site temporary buildings, also called portables, to expand classroom space without having to rebuild the whole school. But Principal Gwen Hill says she is deeply concerned about the security of those portables.

The four freestanding structures form a rectangle on campus near the main office, but visitors don’t need to walk by the front office to get to them. There is outdoor access, although the portables are locked for safety purposes.

“The other thing that’s very hard is our office has no visual sight line of the parking lot,” Hill says.

Besides space and security issues, another problem at the 50,484-square-foot, one-story building is that children don’t have a kitchen area where they can pick up their food, so they have to take their trays to salad bar-style tables in the hallway to get their lunches before carrying them back to class to eat.

Hill says having lunches dished up in a carpeted hallway makes cleaning up messes more complicated.

“I would like another place for the kids to go,” she says. If there were some type of multi-purpose room, the school could serve lunch there and use it for other activities as well.

To meet state energy code, River Grove needs $1.21 million in roofing upgrades, and the school also needs another $2.53 million in structural seismic improvements to reinforce walls and make other upgrades to the roof. That’s not factoring in other repairs to plumbing, mechanical devices, the site and the architectural interior and exterior.

An initial estimate in the FCA report put replacement of the school at $12.87 million without soft costs. But a detailed analysis by DOWA-IBI Group put the full cost as $45.3 million if it’s rebuilt at its current location, or $38.31 million if it’s constructed at Lakeridge Junior High. The latter estimate would not include demolition of the current school or require more extensive work to the site itself.

Currently, the school is used by Community School programs, Girl Scouts, the City of Rivergrove, Rosewood Neighborhood Association and Rivergrove Water District, Duin says.

REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Uplands Elementary School has a mice infestation, a room that you can actually be trapped inside if it's locked, no doors on some rooms and timeworn furniture, said Melissa Griffiths, curriculum enrichment director of the Community School, housed at Uplands. Yet, the building has large classrooms and is conveniently located next to Lake Oswego High and Lake Oswego Junior High schools, Griffiths said..

Uplands Elementary School

Built: 1961, remodeled 1990

Building Condition: Poor

Repair costs: $5.1 million

Enrollment: None

Uplands Elementary’s 51,676 square feet are currently used for PE classes for Lake Oswego Junior High; the school also is home to the Community School and Lake Oswego Schools Foundation. So even though it was closed as an elementary school during the recession, it remains a place of learning.

“The classroom size is great” and the building is well laid out, says Melissa Griffiths, Community School curriculum enrichment director, “but you can tell some of the stuff is run down.”

One room actually can lock people in if they are "not careful to physically unlock the necessary doors," she says. The one-story building needs “extensive painting” and there’s “ceiling damage throughout the interior,” according to the FCA report.

The roof needs $1.09 million in repairs, including energy code upgrades. The report also identified $2.02 million in needed seismic rehabilitation, including improvements to the covered play structure. Twenty-one percent of the school’s needed repairs are mechanical — the highest percentage in the district— with $1.09 million needed to replace items including hot water units, exhaust fans, steam boilers and steel hot water piping.

The building has other foibles besides structural issues and the missing doors. “This building has four key sets,” Griffiths says. But despite its issues, “It’s a wonderful place.”

REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Westridge Elementary School does not have a green roof, but it does have a thick carpet of moss in several areas as well as two-paned windows that are cracked and have moisture trapped between the panes.

Westridge Elementary School

Built: 1980, no remodels

Building Condition: Poor

Repair costs: $3.97 million

Enrollment: 479 K-5 students (March 2016, district report)

Staff: 50 people

Westridge, a 46,712-square-foot, one-story structure, has a long list of issues, including out-of-date mechanical equipment and a roof slope that needs to be increased to improve drainage.

Principal Tin Kha says one of the major issues is damage to the windows, which have “failed” throughout the structure, going foggy from leaking seals. The windows lack what’s called “flashing,” which provides some cover from the rain and prevents leaking.

Wood installed around windows “comes off in your hand,” Kha says, holding up a few shards that had crumbled into his palm.

Some window panes have cracks in them as well. Siding and areas around windows are rotting, and the rooftop is thickly carpeted in moss in some areas. The roofing also has air pockets, having lost whatever adherent once held it in place.

The FCA report estimates Westridge needs $1.17 million in roof repairs and $1.91 million in structural improvements, including seismic repairs. Seismic deficiencies include cracking in masonry walls in the music rooms and deteriorating brick veneer in locations throughout the exterior of the building.

Like schools throughout the district, Westridge hosts a variety of community groups and classes, including Community School classes, neighborhood associations, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts and a neighborhood emergency preparedness organization called Prep Westridge, Duin says.

If for that reason alone, Kha says, the kind of maintenance issues facing schools throughout the district should cause people to worry — and to pay attention.

By Jillian Daley
503-636-1281, ext. 109
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Jan. 7: The swimming pool. Read the story at bit.ly/1UDYyOy.

Feb. 4: Administration, Technology and Facilities Operations buildings and the Bus Barn. Read the story at bit.ly/1SdCcF6.

March 3: Secondary schools. Read the story at bit.ly/1M84pwd.

Today: Primary schools.


The Bond Development Committee has scheduled two community input sessions:

Wednesday, April 13 (6-8 p.m.): Hallinan Elementary School, 16800 Hawthorne Drive, Lake Oswego

Wednesday, May 11 (6-8 p.m.): Forest Hills Elementary, 1133 Andrews Road, Lake Oswego.

For more information about Lake Oswego School District’s facilities improvement planning, visit bit.ly/1NvkS7X.