Jefferson Middle School design

Architect Scott Steele presented this conceptual design for a new Jefferson Middle School, to be built on the west side of the current Jefferson High School campus, during a public forum Friday.

Jennifer Moody, Albany Democrat-Herald

JEFFERSON — Jefferson's political action committee thought the school district was going to pursue a dome structure for its bond-funded construction projects right up until it learned it wouldn't be feasible.

Jefferson's school board thought so, too, Melissa LaCrosse, board chairwoman, said following a public forum Friday. In fact, she's still disappointed.

But she and Paul Terjeson, head of the PAC, For Kids 4 Jefferson, said they both reluctantly had to come to the conclusion that given current labor wages and expectations, dome construction in Oregon costs more than traditional methods. And that conclusion didn't come until after voters had narrowly passed the $14.4 million measure. 

"It just didn't work out," Terjeson said. "The numbers didn't work out."

Terjeson and LaCrosse, along with Ricardo Becerrill of Compass Project Solutions, the Jefferson School District's owner's representative, talked about the dome decision Friday during and after a community presentation from architect Scott Steele on the options the district is now considering for construction.

The district plans to build a new middle school adjacent to Jefferson High School and to construct an eight-classroom addition and gym at Jefferson Elementary School. The district will have a little less than $20 million to work with in all because of $4 million in state matching funds and the opportunity to sell bonds at a premium.

About 35 people turned out for Friday's meeting. Three of them told presenters they were unhappy to learn only after the vote that the district had swung away from the dome plan.

"It's like, what did I vote on? I voted for an efficient, cost-effective school," Susan Frank said. "I'm not disagreeing that we need a new school. But it's not the school that I voted on." 

Dennis Person and Roger Frank both pressed speakers to explain why no one presented the dome concept early on as a possibility rather than a plan. 

"Was that information known before we went out for a vote, or was it after?" Roger Frank asked.

"After," Becerrill said. He said Jefferson was watching closely the experience of the Yamhill-Carlton School District, which is moving forward with construction of two monolithic domes, but that it wasn't until September that it became clear the $185 per square foot they had hoped to pay wouldn't be possible.

"They were very disheartened and frustrated," Becerrill said. "The reason we're going down this path: We believe we can build the conventional way for less than the $297 and $302 (per square foot) that the dome is charging right now in this state." 

Jefferson is planning a rectangular building housing a gym and a six-classroom addition with an optional seventh room at Jefferson Elementary. They are to be built to the east of the main entrance, where the current covered play area now stands. A new play area would be put on the back side, facing Third Street.

The middle school is designed roughly like an upside-down Y and would be built on the west side of the current high school parking lot.

Conceptual designs call for a gym, a computer lab, a media center, Life Skills and special education classrooms, one science lab with a second that can double as an art room, and nine classrooms with an alternate 10th for music. A cafeteria/commons area would join the juncture of the Y.

Chris Giffin said she, too, had been expecting a dome but preferred her tax dollars to be spent as efficiently as possible.

"You did it and you did the right thing," she told speakers. "I really applaud you for taking that risk and doing something besides the dome." 

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