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Good news and bad news

LOSD's high schools are in decent shape, but its junior highs are in desperate need of upgrades and repairs


REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Randy Miller, the district's executive director of bond management, says the Lake Oswego Junior High boilers appear to be original to the building, built in 1957. The system could use an upgrade.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 this November. Over the next few months, The Review will continue to a look at those buildings in a series of articles. Today: the secondary schools.

Walking up the steps to the newly remodeled Lake Oswego High School in 2005 was “a real rush” for Laura Paxson Kluthe.

After spending half of her 22-year career in the old building — teaching in a shared room in a “very smelly” and “really hot” 1950s-era structure — Paxson Kluthe says she has preferred having her own room with lots of light in a temperature-controlled environment.

“It’s a beautiful building,” she says. “It looks like a small college.”

LOHS is the only one of the district’s 10 schools considered to be in “good” condition, the highest possible ranking in a Facilities Condition Assessment (FCA) completed for the district last year as school officials prepare to place a bond measure on the November ballot. Lakeridge High School was just a notch below, the only school ranked as “fair.”

“Everything is pretty good here,” says Lakeridge sophomore Yelena Friedman. “There just aren’t any major issues.”

But that is not the case at the district’s other secondary schools. Lake Oswego and Lakeridge junior highs are both considered to be in “poor” condition, according to the FCA report. They are cramped and in need not only of repairs, but also safety upgrades and seismic improvements.

In fact, seven of the schools in the Lake Oswego School District are in “poor” condition and one is even classified as “critical,” the worst of four possible rankings used in the FCA report. Altogether, the district faces at least $98 million in brick-and-mortar repairs and seismic upgrades to its 17 buildings, not including 30 to 35 percent in additional soft costs such as design work and personnel.

Like districts throughout Oregon, the LOSD deferred repairs and maintenance during the Great Recession. A 2014 Portland State University report puts the backlog statewide at $7.6 billion. But now, the district has begun a process to rectify the situation, seeking community input and support for its upcoming bond.REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - At Lakeridge High, these windows that junior Syd Hoevet is gazing out of on a quiet afternoon after school should be double-paned, says Randy Miller, the districts executive director of bond management.

“It should be our goal to get as close to ‘good’ as possible with all our schools,” says Randy Miller, the district’s executive director of project management.

The high schools are in the best condition in the district because of an $85 million bond that passed in November 2000; it paid for a major renovation at Lakeridge and a rebuild at LOHS. Still, both schools need seismic upgrades to meet current safety standards, and maintenance requirements include improving drainage on the schools’ roofs to address the decay brought on by stagnant rainwater.

“We’ve invested money in these buildings, many millions of dollars, and we’ve got to maintain that investment,” Miller says.

Principal Cindy Schubert agreed.

“I believe our school is in good condition, especially when you compare it to the elementary and middle schools,” Schubert said. “I believe we owe it to our taxpayers to pay attention to the upkeep so that it remains in good condition.”

Lakeridge Junior High is in the worst condition of any school in the district, the FCA report says — except for Oak Creek Elementary, which has severe water damage and is in “critical” condition. The problem with the Lakeridge Junior High building (and the former Bryant Elementary School that now serves as its sixth-grade campus) is the ground itself. The bases of the structures are resting on expansive soils, which swell when precipitation washes over them and shrink when the sun bakes them dry.REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - There is a pool of water in the playground at Lakeridge Junior High. The school is not standing on stable soil.

There’s a veritable pond on the playground virtually year-round, Miller says. Long cracks snake along the walls and floors as if a couple of small earthquakes have shaken the school.

“In our daily life here at LJHS, we're focused on the great learning that is happening in our classes,” Principal Kurt Schultz says. “While our aging facility limits some of what we're able to do, we're fortunate to have stellar teachers and students who can work together on innovative learning experiences. We're committed to making our school the best it can be with the resources and infrastructure we have. To that end, our staff, our student council and parent club are tremendous supports for providing creative solutions, mobile technologies and other enhancements that help us continue to innovate in our 50-year-old space.”

Across town, Lake Oswego Junior High’s walls and floors may not be fracturing, but the school is in need of roof repairs and mechanical upgrades, as well as mitigating measures to address its actual layout.

"At LOJ, we have facility concerns that focus on safety and capacity,” Principal Robert Caplinger says. “From a safety perspective, we need a front office that will allow easy access for parents and visitors, while maintaining a safe and secured environment for all students at all times.”

The LOJ front office is not visible as visitors walk in, so a greeter now sits at a desk in the lobby to direct walk-ins. Built in 1957, the school was designed during a time when people were concerned about the Cold War, not a possible school shooting.

“It wasn’t an issue,” Miller says.

As for the bond process itself, the school board last month approved a state-required Long Range Facilities Plan and Superintendent Heather Beck now has established a Bond Development Committee to recommend which projects to include on the November ballot. The new committee includes Lake Oswego Schools Foundation representatives, teachers, parents, principals, district classified staff, a former school board member, a Chamber of Commerce board member, community members with previous committee experience and experts such as the City of Lake Oswego’s planning and building services director.

The group, which met for the first time on Feb. 10 for a review of roles and responsibilities, convened again on Feb. 24 to review the Long Range Facilities Plan and discuss repair versus replacement of structures. Karina Ruiz, a principal of the district's architectural firm, Dull Olson Weekes-IBI Group Architects Inc., led a presentation about how the committee would go about its duties.

“We are going to try and go through every school and ask, ‘What are the big-picture needs?’” Ruiz says.

The committee will meet on March 9 to discuss project prioritization. Community input sessions are scheduled for April 13 and May 11, and other meetings and opportunities for input are planned in May and June. The committee will present its bond package to the school board on June 20.

The community will have other opportunities to weigh in on the bond, too, including on Thoughtexchange, an online opinion forum. Community members submitted 4,249 ideas from Feb. 10-26 during the “Share” phase of the forum; during the “Star” phase that continues through March 6, people have the opportunity to rank the shared ideas by importance at losd.thoughtexchange.com/invitation.

Results will be released March 28 during the “Discover” phase of the forum. BECK

“Lake Oswego School District has tremendous facility needs right now,” Beck says. “I am extremely appreciative of our community members for sharing their ideas about our facility issues. Complex issues are always resolved better with input from the whole community.”

Among the ideas shared so far: “Build one new district swimming pool”; “Coordinate with PCC to provide more enrichment” and “STEM offerings for high school students”; “Any bond that is vague will not be supported”; and “Plan future bonds to systematically replace schools to modernize” facilities.

When schools eventually are improved, Beck says, it will require some reshuffling.

“When repairing, replacing or upgrading our schools, there is a strong likelihood that this will require students to be temporarily moved to different buildings,” Beck says. “These types of disruptions can be difficult for teachers, students and parents, so we appreciate the involvement from everyone in helping us address our needs. Of course, it is our goal to minimize the impact of our facility improvements on everyone involved.”

REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Randy Miller, the district's executive director of bond management, stands in one of the airy hallways of Lake Oswego High School, the only school in the district that is in 'good' condition. Miller says the district should protect the investment it has made in the high school buildings and keep them nice.

LOHS

Built: 2005, remodeled 2010 (old gym built in 1961 and remodeled in 2004)

Condition: Good, bordering on fair

Costs: Repair, $8.19 million; replace, $83.09 million

Enrollment: 1,311 students (February 2016)

The building in the best condition in the Lake Oswego School District is Lake Oswego High School. It is the only structure categorized as “good,” rated 0.10 on the district’s Facility Condition Index. An FCI is a measurement that divides how much a building costs to repair by how much it costs to replace. When the number reaches more than 0.5 and the cost to repair a building is halfway to the cost of replacing it completely, the building is considered to be in critical condition.

There is a 131-person staff at LOHS, and community groups such as an equestrian team, neighborhood associations and athletic organizations regularly use the three-story, 259,682-square-foot building, says Nancy Duin, the district’s director of communications.

Problems with the structure include that crickets (an additional slope added to a flat roof to improve drainage) “should be replaced and added to areas where the slope of the roof” needs to be raised to drain properly. There also are seismic improvements needed to strengthen the structure, according to the FCA report. Seismic issues include basketball backboards that require “proper bracing,” fire-suppression piping that’s “likely not braced in the original gymnasium” and improvements to the ceilings.

REVIEW PHOTO: JILLIAN DALEY - The pavement at Lakeridge High needs to be smoothed out in a few places.

Lakeridge High School

Built: 1970, remodeled 1990 and 2004

Condition: Fair

Costs: Repair, $12.87 million; replace, $89.06 million

Enrollment: 1,138 students

Lakeridge High School is in “fair” condition, with an FCI rating of 0.14.

Lakeridge houses a 99-person staff, and community groups including Parks & Recreation, neighborhood associations and sports organizations routinely use the three-story, 278,300-square-foot building, Duin says.

The roof needs “tapered insulation and crickets to raise the slope,” so it will “drain properly,” according to the FCA report, which also says that classroom walls should be repainted and carpeting should be replaced.

Seismic deficiencies identified in the report include fire-suppression piping that “was not braced,” edge support that is needed for ceilings, basketball backboards that lack the “proper bracing” and “the large skylight in the library, (which is) a likely falling hazard due to the age of glazing.” In the senior lounge, a wall of single-paned windows “should be double-paned,” Miller says, and some areas of the sidewalks need to be repaved.

REVIEW PHOTO: JILLIAN DALEY - Lakeridge Junior High's exterior paint is peeling in some areas.

Lakeridge Junior High School

Built: 1964 (Bryant was built in 1966); LJHS was remodeled in 1990

Condition: Poor, near critical

Costs: Repair, $15.12 million; replace, $33.1 million

Enrollment: 794 students

Lakeridge Junior High School, which includes the former site of Bryant Elementary School as its sixth-grade campus, stands in poor but nearly critical condition with an FCI of 0.46. The two one-story buildings span 122,610 square feet.

A staff of 60 people work in the buildings, and community groups that include neighborhood associations, Girl Scouts and the Lake Oswego Youth Traveling Basketball Association routinely use the campus, Duin says.

Problems with LJHS include large cracks in the load-bearing brick walls — to the point where, in at least one room on the sixth-grade campus, you can see sunlight from inside a classroom. The roof needs to be cleaned and drained, the FCA report states. The instability of soil that expands with precipitation and contracts in dry weather has created deep, visible cracks in the walls and floors — noticeable in areas including the main building’s hallway, cafeteria and library. REVIEW PHOTO: JILLIAN DALEY - The soil on the campus readily absorbs water and then shrinks when it dries out, causing the foundation to heave, cracking walls and floors.

The soil “causes the building to heave,” Miller explains.

The surrounding grounds are so damp that there are large puddles nearly year-round. The heating system is connected between the schools in the overhang of a walkway, and the poles holding it up also serve double duty as drains. That was not the best planning, Miller says; the poles are rusting from the inside out, making the overhang less stable, and the same drainage technique was used on the walkway in front of the school. Chunks of paint are missing from some exterior walls.

LJHS needs a lot of seismic improvements as well, but Miller says it may make more sense to completely replace the structure than to try to improve it.

“Our structural engineers have said this building has a limited life,” he says.

A couple of years ago, a district study put that lifespan at 10 years, although subsequent research indicated the structure’s life could be lengthened.

“You could do it,” Miller says, “but it’s all about money.”

Lake Oswego Junior High School

Built: 1957, remodeled 1990

Condition: Poor, nearing critical

Costs: Repair, $11.75 million; replace, $28.65 million

Enrollment: 914 students

Although it is not situated on expansive soil, Lake Oswego Junior High still has enough deferred maintenance to be ranked “poor” with an FCI of 0.41.

With a 77-person staff and community groups such as World Champion Taekwondo, Portland Community College and Girl/Boy Scouts frequenting LOJ, the building sees a lot of foot traffic, Duin says. And, LOJ Principal Robert Caplinger says the 106,093-square-foot, single-story building is far too small for its student body.

“We need additional classroom and gymnasium space to meet essential teaching and learning needs,” he says. “Our building is 60 years old, and this shows in the layout. We need to update our infrastructure and create modern learning spaces that reflect the 21st-century needs of our students."

The structure’s mechanical needs top $1 million. It has original boilers and an electrical system with outdated technology.

REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Lake Oswego Junior High's gym is too small, and the bleachers are insufficient for the number of spectators who want to attend games, says Kim Motylewski, athletic services coordinator for the junior high schoolsThere is insufficient room for an assembly in the cafeteria or the gym, Miller says. And all of that doesn’t include the roof, which needs nearly $3 million in repairs, or the fact that the front door is not visible from the school office, creating a potential security issue.

Seismic improvements also are needed, including the removal of an unreinforced masonry chimney and upgrades to strengthen ceilings. The gym’s walls have “little reinforcement,” the FCA report says. In addition, the gym’s bleachers are too small for the number of people who’d like to attend school games, says Kim Motylewski, athletic services coordinator for the junior high schools.

Having small bleachers "is probably our biggest limitation,” Motylewski says. “It really limits how many people get to attend.”


By Jillian Daley
Reporter
503-636-1281, ext. 109
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The Series

• 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.

• Today: Secondary schools

• April 7: Primary schools

If You Go

Community input sessions are coming up on:

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

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

For more information about Lake Oswego School District’s facilities improvement planning, visit bit.ly/1NvkS7X. To participate in Thoughtexchange, visit losd.thoughtexchange.com/invitation.