New junior high now most likely location for Lake Oswego pool
Lake Oswego School Board members appear ready to move forward with plans for the district's new swimming pool, with the Lakeridge Junior High campus emerging as the most likely site.
Although no formal decision was reached at the board meeting last week, every board member expressed support for construction of the pool at LJH, which is scheduled to be rebuilt with funds from the district's $187 million bond. Current plans call for demolition to begin at the site in April 2019, with a projected move-in date of July 2020.
There had been some discussion of partnering with the City to build the pool elsewhere — the Lake Oswego Municipal Golf Course was one option — but board member Bob Barman said a recent City Council vote all but ended that speculation.
"As far as the placement at Lakeridge Junior High, I am fully behind it, and I want to be specific why," he said. "The board asked John (Wallin) and I to meet with the mayor, we also met with two city councilors, and we were open to looking at a property off of our campus. But they voted 4-3 to say they didn't want to join us. If the City didn't want to join us, that leaves us with our properties."
Mayor Kent Studebaker said he and Councilors Jackie Manz and Theresa Kohlhoff did meet with School Board representatives for more than an hour to discuss both capital and operating costs. For the most part, he said, the discussion centered around whether the City would assume responsibility for the operations and maintenance of the pool.
"Location of the pool and initial capital costs were not things they felt were ready for a decision," Studebaker told The Review. "Accordingly, the vote at Council was simply one to answer the question posed to us by the School Board — that is, would the City be willing to pay for operation and maintenance of a pool."
City Councilor John LaMotte was a strong proponent of a partnership with the district. On Tuesday, he said he was "disappointed that our City Council did not get to discuss and debate the full pool issue."
"We didn't get to talk about site options and improvements and partnering with the district," he said, and as a result, the district was left on its own to figure out the best option for a new pool.
"We as a City Council didn't look at any other options or try to work with them," LaMotte said. "But I think they made the right decision with the junior high. When you look around town, there's not that many sites. I think there could be some really good synergy with the construction of the junior high."
LaMotte said he hopes the City can work with the district on the pool in some way in the future.
"Once they get the information they need about the site, I hope they pick up the phone and want to sit down with us," he said.
Last week's board discussion came during a presentation by the Bond Accountability Committee. Randy Miller, the district's executive director of project management, was joined by committee members Jeff Fischer and Don Irving, who asked the board for guidance in order to move forward on construction of the new pool.
"To be accountable to the community and the board, we are looking for specific steps we can follow, because most of the other projects are stepped out pretty clearly and this one is not," Irving said.
In response, some board members expressed a need for more site studies to be done in order to determine the best location for the new pool.
"I don't think we can clearly say that it absolutely has to be on one site," board member Liz Hartman said. "I really think there has to be some geologic testing to make sure that there is a site that accommodates the pool with the least amount of chances of something going wrong."
Board member Sara Pocklington asked Miller if the committee had any concerns about the land at Lakeridge Junior High being able to support a pool, and he said there were two issues.
"The first is the expansive soils," he said. "That can be engineered, so it's just a matter of cost. The other is that we know there are significant rock materials in that area."
Miller said recent studies of the site found minimal rock formations, although the exact location of the pool has not been determined, so the studies cannot be considered completely accurate. Armed with that information, Pocklington was the first board member to express her support for moving forward with construction of the pool at LJH.
"From a location perspective, we know that we have enough space there. It's also pretty centrally located within our community, and from a parking perspective we have an opportunity with the new construction to make sure we have adequate parking," she said. "I am absolutely at this point leaning toward Lakeridge Junior High, barring anything coming back saying that it would be cost-prohibitive to do so. I would really like to see us moving forward."
Pocklington also said that the pool has been taking up a disproportionate amount of the board and committee's time, and Fischer agreed. He cautioned that spending too much time discussing the site of the pool could distract from the much larger project of building the new junior high school itself.
"I want to be cautious of looking at too many sites, because we'll spend a bunch of time and money that we don't have," Fischer said. "If it becomes part of the junior high, then you're potentially holding that project also hostage."
Barman agreed and expressed enthusiastic support for locating the pool at LJH. He said all of the district's elementary school sites are much too small to support a pool, and a remodel of Lake Oswego Junior High isn't included in this round of bond projects.
"So the one that makes sense, that is also centrally located, is Lakeridge Junior High," he said.
Another plus, Barman said, is that construction of the pool could coincide with construction of the new junior high and potentially lead to cost savings. For example, he said, if it is possible to share locker rooms between the new gymnasium and the pool, there is a potential to save around $1 million in construction costs. Being able to use one set of permits in certain cases would also lower costs, he said.
At the end of the discussion, board member Rob Wagner appeared to sum up the feelings of his colleagues. "Lakeridge Junior High, and if not there, where and why," he said. "And quickly."
Miller told the board that architecture and design teams are currently looking at options for the size of a pool facility and its location on the site. Plans currently call for demolishing Bryant Elementary and putting the new school in the northwest corner of the campus. The existing school would be in operation until the new school is built, with sixth-graders housed temporarily in portable classrooms.
Options being considered for the pool include room for a 25-yard, eight-lane facility (the same size as the one currently at Lake Oswego High School), or a 50-meter pool with an attached warming pool. Miller stressed, though, that the teams are not designing specific features of the pool itself.
"That's not within their current scope," he said.
The district has been holding a variety of events to give community members a chance to weigh in on the design of the new Lakeridge Junior High. At a workshop on Saturday, participants talked about earthquake resistance, the need to maintain the old-growth trees around the campus, the need for an inclusive space and more.
Members of the design team from Mahlum Architects, who had met previously with educators and administrators, said some of the emerging goals for the new building include creating an environment for students in which they feel emotionally comfortable and physically secure, inspiring learning through the beauty and pride surrounding the building, using sustainable materials such as local timber, and providing a learner-centric environment able to serve different types of students.