Board gives thumbs-up to SHJH plans

Sean C. Morgan

The School Board approved a schematic design for the proposed remodel of Sweet Home Junior High during a special meeting Monday evening, but board members were concerned about the placement of two driveways next to each other.

Board members also saw conceptual drawings of the school’s new appearance for the first time.

With the approval, gLAs Architects will begin the design development phase of the project.

Architect Chris Walkup said the project will be in front of the board again multiple times before he creates construction documents. He will further refine the design and obtain an estimate for the project, after which, the district may need to remove elements to reduce costs.

The plan came to the board after feedback from multiple sources, Supt. Tom Yahraes said. Those included community surveys when the board was first considering whether to pursue a bond levy to fund the project. It also included a wide variety of groups: staff members from various departments, city officials, the fire chief and police chief, students, the public and board members.

The project will be funded by a $4 million bond, which the state matched with an additional $4 million grant. The bond maintains about the same property tax rate district residents are already paying on an earlier bond levy.

Based on feedback, Walkup made minor adjustments to the schematic and extended a hallway along the east side of a new gymnasium, allowing spectators to exit the gym while remaining inside the school.

That hallway extension turned out to be an important element, visually, to the exterior of the school, he said.

The concept drawings depict the use of wood columns and decks on an exterior facade that ties together the existing buildings with the new structures. The theme is carried to the north side of the building overlooking Husky Field with a covered area in front of a new cafeteria.

“Looks good,” said Jason Van Eck, board member, adding that he would like to see the situation with the driveways ironed out.

In the current drawings, public traffic enters the junior high from 22nd, where the current driveway is located. With the purchase of a lot located at the intersection of Mountain View and 22nd, the traffic will be able to flow through a loop and exit to Mountain View Drive.

Across a 9-foot walkway, buses will enter and exit the grounds in a second loop. Walkup said up to seven buses will use the loop.

Chairman Mike Reynolds thought the two driveways looked close and asked Van Eck, a Sweet Home Police sergeant, for his opinion.

“It’s a wreck waiting to happen,” Van Eck responded. He said he was also concerned about the pedestrian walkway between the two loops, wondering how many students would cross the bus loop to use it.

“(The congestion) is going to be a fairly limited time,” Reynolds said.

Van Eck suggested eliminating some of the parking to run the loop back to 22nd Avenue.

Board member Jim Gourley, a former city councilman, suggested making the exit from the bus loop right turn only and the public exit left turn only.

Board members agreed that parents would continue to drop off their students on 22nd Avenue. Van Eck thought eliminating the stairs and unlocking only the main entrance at the beginning of the day could help prevent some of that.

Board members generally agreed they preferred to allow access only through the main entrance past the office anyway for the sake of school security.

The board voted 8-0 to approve the design. Present were Gourley, Ben Emmert, Van Eck, Keeney, Jason Redick, Reynolds, Angela Clegg and Carol Babcock. Debra Brown was absent.

Yahraes summarized where the district is with the objectives of the bond, which was passed to remodel the Junior High; to improve security and heating controls at district schools; install hot water lines across the district; and improve the network infrastructure at the High School.

At the Junior High, the bond is enhancing safety and security, he said. It offers multiple access points for pedestrians, bikes, cars and buses, achieving better traffic flow. It eliminates all satellite buildings, with everything under one roof and reducing multiple building entry points.

It adds a safety vestibule and office area, with a single entry point for visitors. It adds a fire sprinkler system, improving safety.

It opens up the library, cafeteria and commons areas for better supervision of students. Visual and performing arts programs will be housed at the Junior High – not the high school or exterior buildings – making the arts more visual, accessible and inviting.

The design provides new space for student services and basic life skills. Physical education and extra-curricular programs will have more space, so junior high programs do not need to travel to Foster School to use the gym.

Each classroom will be outfitted with similar technology, with students moving to one-on-one devices, like Chromebooks, modernizing and integrating technology and learning.

Larger windows in the south classrooms will allow more natural light into learning spaces.

“Thus far, the architect feels that we are still within the ballpark of our budget, thus achieving all of this with our bond and the dollar-for-dollar $4 million matching grant and no increase to our tax rate,” Yahraes said.

The district is planning to begin demolition at the Junior High this summer, with final completion in November 2019.

Work on heating system controls throughout the district has already been completed, and network fiber upgrades to increase bandwidth and speed are under way at the High School.

The district is in the planning stages for the hot water line projects at all district schools.

Upcoming projects include a grant-based seismic upgrade at Hawthorne School that will coincide with a bond-related project there. The project will remodel the office space and create a locking entrance area. Similar work is scheduled for 2019 at Holley and Foster Schools.

Oak Heights did not receive a grant for seismic upgrades and already has a locking vestibule paid for by its Parent-Teacher Club.

Outside of the Junior High project, Facility Director Josh Darwood, a former contractor, will serve as project manager for facility improvement projects.

“It’s great to have someone with Josh’s construction expe-rience on staff,” Yahraes said. “Many other districts spend significant amounts of money contracting out project management services. By utilizing Josh, we will have more funds available for our school improvement projects.”