Oaks Heights Renovation Begins

A digitized rendering shows what the front of Oak Heights will look like facing Elm Street. Image provide by GLAS Architects, LLC

School District 55 Maintenance Supervisor Josh Darwood announced during the June 10 school board meeting that work will begin this week on Oak Heights’ seismic retrofit project.

An architect’s drawing depicts what Oak Heights will look like along Elm Street after seismic retrofitting is completed this summer. Photo provided by Sweet Home School District

Demolition began on Friday, June 14. The project is funded primarily with a $2.5 million seismic grant received from Business Oregon, and district funds will be used to cover the rest.

Foster, Hawthorne and Holley had been subjects of seismic retrofit in the past, Business Manager Kevin Strong explained. A noticeable change once Oak Heights is complete will be an entrance facing Elm Street, which will provide a better security function by the fact that reception will be able to see who’s approaching the school.

“I am cautiously optimistic that the students and staff at Oak Heights, when this is done, they’re gonna say that their school got the best of all of them,” Strong said.

File Photo

He told The New Era that the work will be “significant,” including reinforced bowstring trusses supporting the gym’s roof structure, installation of shear walls in the main school building, and a replaced roof in the main building with strengthened connections between the roof and walls.

Other improvements in the project include an upgraded HVAC system, installation of LED lighting and new energy efficient windows, replaced siding, installation of short-throw classroom projectors and added security features.

“The school will include a security vestibule entrance facing Elm Street with an adjacent office space so staff can easily monitor who is approaching the entrance,” Strong said.

Further, existing space will be repurposed in order to add a classroom and design a more functional library, he said.

“The school will feature a timber frame supported entryway similar to the entryways at Hawthorne, Holley and Foster schools,” he said. “By making these additional improvements at this time, the school district can benefit from economies of scale during construction and reduce the overall cost compared to completing projects independently.”

Darwood noted that, while Gerding Builders out of Corvallis will lead the work, local contractors will handle some aspects of the project where it makes financial sense to do so.

“Not only does it benefit us, it benefits our community,” he said. “These are a lot of local contractors, suppliers, so we’re helping out this area too, which I love to see. And it saves us money.”

The area businesses involved include Bryce Gardner Inc., Double Eagle Construction, Hartness Drywall, L&W Supply, McCubbins Homes and Walker Heating.

Darwood expects the project will be completed shortly after the next school year begins.

Next year’s school board representative, Killan Boggs, far left, introduces himself to the school board. Photo by Sarah Brown

In other business, the board:

  • Adopted the proposed $68.7 million budget from last month for 2024/25 FY including a permanent tax rate of $5.0057 per $1,000 assessed value and local option rate of $0.3000 per $1,000, and a $1,881,000 debt service fund.
  • Heard from Steve Thorpe who announced the senior class was awarded more than $1.7 million in scholarships. He also noted this was the first time in a long time that so many kids were sent off to compete at the next level, which included five wrestlers, as well as one basketball, one baseball and two volleyball players.
  • Was introduced to Killan Boggs, who will be next year’s student body president and student representative at the board meetings. He provided an update on the final week’s happenings as the high school students prepare for summer, as well as a plan to host an open house for parents at the beginning of the next school year, which will include a scavenger hunt for students and other activities.
  • Heard that enrollment ended at 2,254 on May 31.
  • Approved contractors for the Oak Heights seismic retrofit project.
  • Heard from Supt. Terry Martin, who reported about a partnership with Knife River, which wanted to interview and hire five (presumably) graduating seniors for full-time work.
  • Approved a resolution that ultimately solidifies a commitment to determine how best to improve school facilities for safety and security, and how to fund those improvements.