Outdated fire systems in majority of PPS buildings

Citizens will vote on construction bond that would reportedly fix problems

Jefferson High School at 5210 N Kerby in Portland, June 11, 2016 (KOIN)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Around two-thirds of Portland Public Schools’ buildings are lacking when it comes to modern fire safety systems and equipment, the district recently revealed.

In May, citizens will vote on a $790 million construction bond that would reportedly fix the problems. If the bond passes, PPS would devote $26 million toward the safety upgrades. If it doesn’t pass, the money will come out of the operating budget.

Interim Chief Operations Officer Courtney Wilton told KOIN 6 News about 60 of nearly 90 buildings need fire safety upgrades, mostly due to their age. The average PPS building is 77 years old, which is a big factor in the lack of updated sprinklers, alarms, panels and sensors in district facilities.

If a fire were to break out in one of the older buildings, Wilton said there are systems in place to get teachers and students out safely. But the district still has a ways to go when it comes to bringing the aging schools up to a higher standard.

PPS signed an agreement with the fire marshal in 2014 to make changes to the “highest risk buildings” in the district by 2020. Wilton said PPS could be fined if schools don’t meet the fire marshal’s mandates by that time.

“This is not an option for us not to do, so we will do the remaining parts of the intergovernmental agreement regardless of whether the bond passes,” Wilton said.

Vernon Elementary School, built in 1931, is in the “highest risk category” with only 14% sprinkler coverage, a lack of up-to-date fire panels, horns and alarms.