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With school out for summer, construction projects get going at Oregon school districts

We asked a few of the larger districts in Oregon about the projects that are underway and which of them will be completed by next fall.

PORTLAND, Ore. — While it’s summer and many students are out of the classroom, schools can still be pretty busy places as districts work to improve buildings. This summer, numerous construction projects are underway at school districts across Oregon and Washington.

At Benson High School in Southeast Portland, construction crews are busy doing a major overhaul.

“Summertime is a very busy time for us and this is a particularly busy year. As you can see, we're doing modernization here at Benson," said David Mayne, communications manager for the Portland Public Schools bond program. "This is the first year of construction in a three-year project. We're finishing construction on Lincoln High School right now. So that'll open up in the fall.”

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Mayne said that there are about a dozen construction projects happening across the district this summer, with crews working on everything from roofs to seismic retrofitting.

“They'll all be done by the fall with the exception of this modernization, which is a three-year project,” said Mayne, referring to the construction happening at Benson High School. “The work that we're doing this summer is mostly 2020 [bond] with residual leftover from the modernizations on the 2017 bond.”

Mayne said upgrades are particularly important because most of the schools in the district were built before World War II — making buildings, on average, about 80 years old.

Meanwhile, at Salem-Keizer Public Schools, Director of Facilities Joel Smallwood said construction projects are likewise in full swing.

“We have 20 schools that are under active construction this summer. We have a few others that are in final closeout, small work at other projects, but 20 major projects going on,” said Smallwood.

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A district spokesperson said eight of those projects are expected to be completed by next fall. Schools where summer projects will wrap up by fall include Sprague High School, Stephens Middle School, Parrish Middle School, Kennedy Elementary School, Myers Elementary School, Schirle Elementary School, Sumpter Elementary School and Yoshikai Elementary School.

Smallwood said that in a number projects, construction crews are adding new classrooms and other spaces.

Kara Yunck, communications coordinator for the Beaverton School District, said classroom additions and modifications are happening at several of their elementary schools. Yunck said that in addition to work on roofs, new carpet installation and HVAC systems, classroom walls will be added in some elementary classrooms.

“Those particular schools were built at a time when an 'open concept' was popular in design, so the classrooms had wall partitions, not permanent walls and doors,” wrote Yunck in an e-mail.

Yunck said the new additions of permanent walls and doors will help cut down on noise and provide extra security.

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In light of recent and recurring events, security is naturally a major element of concern. In recent years, Oregon districts have moved to add things like cameras and controlled entryways. That work is ongoing.

Mayne said that within the last year PPS has completed security upgrades across all schools.

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