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Three years after devastating fire, repairs reopen school

by: TRIBUNE PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER ONSTOTT - Boxes of school supplies from the temporary Rose City Park School will soon be unpacked, replacing only what was there before the fire.A new era will soon begin at Marysville School, three years and two months after its east wing and gymnasium were destroyed by a dramatic school-day fire.

Miraculously, no one was injured in the blaze, the cause of which has never been determined. An outpouring of support from residents across Portland helped Marysville students, staff and families get back on their feet and temporarily relocate in Rose City Park, a school that had just been shuttered.

But the Northeast Portland location forced nearly all students to ride the school bus 45 minutes every morning and afternoon. Staff and families said they longed to be a neighborhood school again.

On Jan. 7, students will return from winter break to their original campus, 7733 S.E. Raymond St., with $4.5 million in freshly completed repairs from Portland Public Schools insurance funds on the school.

Since voters did not approve the PPS bond measure first floated in 2011, Marysville missed out on a full-scale rebuild, which would have fully updated the space and technology. It would’ve been fully rewired for 21st Century technology, with larger classrooms, a new library, gym and cafeteria, and better connection to the adjacent park.

As it is now, the school is restored to its condition before the fire, along with some improvements, including the addition of a fire sprinkler and alarm system, an updated

science lab, better handicap access and reconfiguration of the main office to improve entry visibility and security.

Still, the building is 91 years old, a colonial revival single-story wood building that was identified as a highly significant historic building in the 2008 PPS Historic Building Assessment.

“We only had money to put back what was here before,” says Michelle Platter, the PPS project manager. “Not everything’s perfect.”

By the first week of winter break, a moving company had hauled all of the furniture, books and supplies from Rose City Park to the rebuilt Marysville site. Teachers were preparing to set up their classrooms the first week of January, just before students arrive.

“We’re energized,” Platter said halfway through the move. “It’s just all about making it happen.”

About 100 PPS staff have served on the Marysville project team at some point, Platter says. The team led a public walk-through for families on Dec. 8 to get a sneak peek at their rebuilt school, and the kids seemed to love it, she says.

The feature that got the most attention was the automatic water bottle filler, a feature designed to reduce plastic bottle waste.

Rising again

Construction went relatively quickly. After funding was sorted out, crews broke ground in June and didn’t encounter any problems with the building, Platter says, because it was boarded up so quickly after the fire.

DLR Group, the design contractor, was also able to reuse the temporary roof as part of the permanent roof, she says.

In the days, weeks and years since the fire, Marysville staff have been wearing red T-shirts that read: “We Will Rise Again.”

Marysville Principal Lana Penley says the school community is thrilled to return to its neighborhood.

“Though we are appreciative to both the Rose City Park neighborhood and to the building itself for allowing us to be there, we are ready to come home,” she told the Tribune this month. “There is something very special about the connection between the community and the school that Portland’s neighborhood schools provide. And we have missed that connection. We — our students, our families — need that sense of steadiness that comes from schools and families and neighborhoods working together to help our kids.”

Penley added that she’s proud of her school community for surviving a trauma that was “life altering” for many.

“We were able to feel the event, yet keep our eyes focused on teaching and learning, and now, with the move, come full circle to reuniting,” she said. “We are going home. And there is no place as sweet to us as Raymond Street.”

A grand opening celebration at Marysville is set for Jan. 17.

For info, check the website www.pps.k12.or.us/departments/schoolmodernization/7365.htm

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