PPS using bond to tackle age issues in schools

Safety and construction projects will start this summer

Water fountains were shut off at PPS schools after lead was found in the drinking water, file. (KOIN)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — On the heels of a record $790 million bond measure passing for Portland Public Schools, the district is on overdrive, getting started on fixing a crumbling infrastructure in many of its schools.

The first thing they’re going to do is hire project managers to get the ball rolling. Interviews started Tuesday.

“We’re looking at two project managers,” bond measure COO Jerry Vincent said. “Those managers will be in charge of addressing the pressing safety and health issues facing many of the schools. Issues involving radon and asbestos.”

Madison High School in Portland, May 26, 2015 (KOIN)
Madison High School in Portland, May 26, 2015 (KOIN)

Many of the issues stem from the fact that the average Portland school is 77 years old. Many are more than 100 years old, which is why they have lead, radon and asbestos.

The top health priority is lead, which has been detected in more than 90 schools. Lead in the water and lead paint are both issues. The first phase of lead paint mitigation will start with Atkinson, Astor, Hayhurst and Woodstock schools with exterior repainting. After that, crews will repaint the interiors of the schools starting with those that have the biggest lead problems.

Modernizing the buildings will start with schools like Benson, Lincoln and Madison High Schools and Kellogg Middle School, which are all in bad shape. PPS Spokesperson David Northfield told KOIN 6 News Kellogg will be completely rebuilt, while Madison and Benson will be renovated and Lincoln is undecided, but will likely be rebuilt completely.

“Kellogg needs to get going right away,” Vincent said. “And then one of the two, Benson or Lincoln, needs to get going too so they don’t end up competing against each other in the next round.”

That building has been vacant for years because of the bad shape it’s in, but the space is urgently needed due to overcrowding at other schools.

Several schools are in talks to get new roofs including Lee, Tubman and King.

The district will start tackling these issues this summer. The construction timeline is 30-36 months while the entire bond project is expected to take 8 year because all the construction can’t happen at the same time.

Before any other specific projects are outlined, the school board must approve plans.

Interim Superintendent Bob McKean shared the following statement on the PPS website after the bond measure passed:

What a great day for Portland Public Schools! Voters overwhelmingly approved our bond measure, which means we can continue our plan to make our schools modern, safe and welcoming places for our students to learn and excel. I want to offer my most sincere thanks to everyone who worked so hard on the campaign – and to all of you who voted in this election. The impact will be felt for years and decades to come by generations of students and Portlanders.

The results of this election reinforce what I have seen since becoming interim superintendent last August: Portland is a community that cares deeply about its public schools. This was a tremendous vote of confidence in our teachers, principals, support staff and school board. It also is a reflection on the excellent work that has been done at Franklin and Roosevelt high schools and Faubion K-8 using funds from the 2012 bond.

In addition to breaking ground on the new Grant High School (using 2012 bonds), we will begin quickly to address lead, radon, asbestos and fire safety issues at schools throughout the district. At the same time, we will begin the necessary groundwork for major overhauls of Madison and Benson high schools, and complete rebuilds of Lincoln High and Kellogg Middle School. As more details become available on these projects, we will share them with you.

Again, thank you Portland, and thank you PPS community. I am excited about the future of our schools.”