'A maintenance nightmare'
LOSD faces millions in repairs to its elementary schools, where problems include leaky roofs, crumbling walls and rotting wood
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 buildings needs.
Sarlos has plenty of ideas for educational upgrades to improve learning for her students. Shed love to see more areas for small groups to meet, improved acoustics and a covered outdoor learning area. But its true, she says, that water penetrating the walls has caused extensive damage to the school, and that repairs are desperately needed.
Its 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, its 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 districts executive director of project management.
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.
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 its 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 its (the other schools) turn, and I do hear that coming from the community, committee member Jan Castle says.
Thats 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.
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 theres 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 wouldnt do well in an earthquake, Miller says.
Since its 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.
Heres a look at the reality facing each of the districts elementary schools, according to the FCA report:
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 childrens programs; Cub Scouts; Girl Scouts; and Extended Day, a before- and after-school program for elementary school children, says Nancy Duin, the districts 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 its 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 theres not enough storage space. Or when third-graders Harley Genovese and Emmeline DesJardins can be spotted on the floor in the hallway because theres 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.
Its such a tight squeeze, says head secretary Wende Milner, whos been stationed at Forest Hills for 20 years.
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 districts 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. Its 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 thats 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 its hard for me to complain, Deboy told The Review. I love this place, and we have amazing things going on.
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.
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, its 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 districts 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 thats a problem if someone wants to hold a PowerPoint presentation there.
Our library is so beautiful, she says. Its 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 Creeks 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.
Palisades Elementary School
Built: 1959, remodeled in 1990
Building Condition: Poor
Repair costs: $4.94 million
Currently leased to the Citys 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.
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 districts 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 dont 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 thats 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 dont 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. Thats 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 its rebuilt at its current location, or $38.31 million if its 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.
Uplands Elementary School
Built: 1961, remodeled 1990
Building Condition: Poor
Repair costs: $5.1 million
Uplands Elementarys 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 theres 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 schools 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, Its a wonderful place.
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 whats 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.
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.
IF YOU GO
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 Districts facilities improvement planning, visit bit.ly/1NvkS7X.