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Corvallis district making progress on school construction program
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Corvallis district making progress on school construction program

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The Corvallis School District is continuing to make progress on construction and renovations following the passing of a 2018 bond measure.

“There were 70 crew members on-site today just cranking it out,” said district Director of Facilities and Maintenance Kim Patten Nov. 6 at Lincoln Elementary School.

Last week, Patten led members of the Bond Oversight Committee — an independent advisory board monitoring the program’s progress — as well as Corvallis School Board members on a tour of the Lincoln and Garfield schools’ construction sites and gave them a peek at recent renovations at Cheldelin Middle School.

Jennifer Richmond, an oversight committee member, also participated in the 2016 Long-Range Facility Planning Committee that helped craft the bond measure.

“We were talking about the project being done in 2024, and it seemed so far away,” Richmond said. Richmond and fellow oversight committee member Emily Valdez said they were amazed by the progress the district has made following Friday’s tours.

“The Corvallis School District is so well-run,” Richmond said.

In May 2018, Corvallis voters approved a $199,916,925 capital construction bond, allowing the district to make massive infrastructure overhauls on buildings in need of repair, begin renovations to align with policy changes and replace two of its elementary schools.

According to an Oct. 22 report to the School Board, bond sales, earned interest and grants from the state and other sources have given the district a total of $246,729,310 to work with. It’s already invested $44,671,620 into bond program work as of Sept. 30 — representing just over 18% of total resources.

September’s wildfires didn’t inhibit the process much, according to senior project manager Dale Kuykendall of the bond program’s consulting firm Wenaha Group. Construction was put off by seven to 10 days, depending on the site, he said, and no damage was reported.

“The different sites were affected differently based on if they were working inside or outside,” Kuykendall said. “There was some time loss, but the construction companies were working to adjust their schedules accordingly.”

Garfield Elementary, where the district had spent the most program money as of Sept. 30, welcomed commuting administrators by way of a freshly paved south parking lot into a temporary office space on Monday. According to Patten, a limited number of teachers can begin in-person instruction as soon as next Monday in renovated classrooms.

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Among the school’s new fixings is bilingual signage in English and Spanish. Kuykendall said both Garfield and the rebuilt Lincoln were chosen for these signs due to the schools’ large Spanish-speaking populations.

Tours of Garfield and Cheldelin also revealed the district’s vision of gender-neutral restrooms come to life. Separate boys’ and girls’ rooms in the schools have been replaced by flow-through spaces with universal hand-washing stations and fully enclosed, single-user toilet rooms, at least one being handicap-accessible, in the place of stalls.

“It’s awesome … having something like this foreign concept of non-gendered bathrooms,” Richmond said. “No one knew what it was going to look like.”

In December 2018, the School Board passed a “Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Students – Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity” policy, in which it emphasized the installation of restrooms in upcoming construction projects to ensure that “students are entitled access to restrooms, locker rooms, showers, and changing facilities consistent with their gender identity.”

“The objective of our policy, as I understand it, is to provide a safe environment for everybody,” said School Board Chair Sami Al-AbdRabbuh. “The way it translates in reality in the bathrooms (seen on the tour) is, hopefully, no one will feel uncomfortable with going into a single stall.”

Al-AbdRabbuh added that “students might really need to work through understanding their discomfort” if they’d rather not use gender-neutral restrooms, and administrators or counseling staff can help with that, but that doesn’t mean a gender-nonconforming student should be denied their rights at the same time. For example, he said, people don’t ask for a ladies’ room or men’s room in someone’s home because those bathrooms are made for individual use.

Also in place in Cheldelin is the district’s first model of a modern STEAM — short for science, technology, engineering, arts and math — workshop. The area, once complete, will have mobile workstations and fully outfitted breakout rooms for student projects.

The new Lincoln Elementary’s foundations have been laid and the steel framework is scheduled to be completed by the end of the month.

Husky Elementary, which will follow closely in design to Lincoln, is nearing completion on footing excavation, forming and reinforcing steel. Erecting the school's steel framework, according to the October report, is scheduled to start in December.

Designs are still in the works for Jaguar, Adams and Wildcat elementary schools and, after completion, bidding will take place for construction contractors.

All other planned bond program improvements are slated to begin within the next two years, including renovations at Corvallis High School, Mountain View Elementary, Franklin K-8 and the Harding Center.

For more information, visit csd509j.net/bond-program.

Nia Tariq can be reached at 541-812-6091. Follow her on Twitter @NiaTariq.

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