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Parkrose Middle School construction update

Aerial view of the new Parkrose Middle School construction site.
The old Parkrose Middle School is slowly disappearing, as week-by-week a new creation-greener and more efficient-takes its place.

Since the groundbreaking at the old school last May, work crews have busily demolished a wing, added a new baseball field, and are now finishing pouring concrete to the slabs for the new 140,000 square foot structure, constructed on the same site as the old one. Workers are currently building concrete blocks for the walls and erecting steel.

The middle school will cost $43 million, part of a $63 million bond measure passed by Parkrose residents in May 2011. This year, that bond will cost the average taxpayer $1.14 per $1,000 of assessed value.

To help pay for the construction, the district is continuing to apply for federal and state grants. So far, the middle school building has been approved for a $25,000 energy grant through the state of Oregon.

The remainder of the bond money is being used to renovate five other schools in the district. Along with the makeover they got last year, Russell and Shaver elementary schools add new multipurpose rooms along with Sacramento, which will start school after the winter break with a new office area. The new Parkrose Middle School is scheduled to open in September 2014, with demolition of the old building and development of new play fields being completed by June 2015.

The new school is being built with environmentally friendly “green” features. After its completion, school officials will apply for LEED certification (Leadership in energy and design).

“We are anticipating to be approved for a LEED gold status,” said Mary Larson, Director of Business Services for the district. “The old building was constructed way before there was much thought to sustainable practices.”

This summer work crews demolished the old wing containing the eighth-grade pod of classrooms. Those students are housed in temporary portable classrooms set up on the campus. Crews built a new baseball field next to Parkrose High School, across from the middle school. Already, students are practicing at the field, shared by both schools.

A few neighbors complained to the district that the new baseball field fence obscured their view.

“They came to a board work session where normally there is no audience speaking or participation but the chair asked them to speak and gave them lots of time,” said Karen Fischer Gray, Parkrose School District superintendent. “In the end, I offered another meeting to discuss the matter but there was no meeting asked for.”

Although there have been no official complaints from adults about noise, Gray said a few people complained about dust caused by construction workers.

“The construction company did something really clever,” Gray said. “They offered a free car wash for each neighbor that wanted their cars dust cleaned off and the kids at the high school did the cleaning. The construction company donated money to the high school kids for doing the work. It really helped.”

The district worked hard to meet city building code requirements, including adding bike racks, parking, trees, and storm water abatement. A consulting firm was hired by the district to make sure those requirements were met.

“They have helped very much so that we could stay on track, on budget and on schedule, which we have,” Gray said.

Andy Phelps, who teaches sixth grade at the school, said, “Most of my sixth graders are excited about having a new building; some said they would miss the existing building because they're just getting used to it. They all agree that the construction noise is a problem, but think it will be worth it in the end.”

Chris Ebert, a parent with two children at the school, serves on the Bond Oversight Committee, a voluntary group composed of parents, school officials and citizens, which reports on the progress of the construction. “I think it's going very well,” said Ebert, an architect himself. “They seem to be on time and on budget. Everybody likes the design of the middle school.”

Some of the original design ideas needed to be eliminated because of lack of money.

“During the process of design you try to shoot for the stars,” Ebert said. “Your budgets come back and you have to be more realistic.”

The changes and deletions are minor and don't affect the “overall vision of the school,” Gray said.

The old school badly needed repairs.

“I haven't heard any nostalgia for the old one,” Ebert said. “All the parents I know are really excited about it.”

Most students share that same sentiment.

His daughter, Vicki Ebert, and eighth grader at the middle school, said, “I'm excited that we're getting a new one. I don't think anybody's going to miss that we're losing the old one. I haven't noticed very much noise. There's a little bit when I'm outside in the morning in the portable classrooms but it's just background noise now."
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