By Nancy Tannler

Thanks to the $482 million school building improvement bond the citizens of Portland voted for in 2012, Franklin, Roosevelt and Grant High Schools and one K – 8 have had or will have a complete makeover, while 63 other schools will receive classroom upgrades.

In SE Portland, Franklin High School reopens for class this fall to a fully modernized school where old and new architecture has been woven together to provide a building for the best possible learning institution for teenagers in the state.

David Mayne, Communications Manager for the Bond Program at Portland Public Schools, has been overseeing these projects since 2013. This fall he is glad to see both Franklin and Roosevelt are finished and reopening to what he believes is a good use of our tax dollars.

The Franklin Alumni Association also privately raised money so the brick on the new Performing Arts Building (SE 52nd & Woodward) matches the rest of the school. Nike provided funds to pay for the new track and athletic field.

Planning for the Franklin remodel began in 2012 first by forming the Design Advisory Group and Master Planning Committees comprised of parents, teachers, students, service providers and the community. Before beginning, they held over twenty meetings to help define the design and figure out what would work and what wouldn’t.

“The prime directive was to preserve the iconic essence of the building,” Mayne said. Portland Public Schools (PPS) worked with DOWA / IBI Group Architects and SERA Architects.

Karina Ruiz, Principal Education Planner, and Tonie Esteban, Project Architect at DOWA IBI, both spoke with The Southeast Examiner about the development of the project, the challenges and the final outcome.

“We began building just as Franklin was celebrating their Centennial anniversary,” Ruiz said. “We wanted to bring out the old building while eliminating and replacing structures that no longer work for todays learning styles – a home for students for the next 100 years.”

Esteban was the principal architect from the firm who followed the project from the early planning stages through to the finish. DOWA / IBI has a reputation for remodeling schools and SERA, the other architectural firm involved, are experts at historic preservation and renovation.

“This was a big, complicated project,” she said. The combined experience made the outcome as spectacular as it is.

Franklin was first built back in 1915, modeled after the Colonial Revival architecture. It is one of Portland’s most beautiful high schools but the interior design was a formulaic factory model with the teacher at the head of the class and the students lined up as audience. Learning styles have changed and the remodel at Franklin reflects these changes.

Today’s students no longer learn best by the one size fits all model. There is more collaboration, connectivity, project-based learning and personalized instruction. The newly-designed classrooms intermingles career paths, so rather than just funneling a student through a program, they are introduced to other possibilities and choices for expanding career ideas.

The new arts building

The new west wing houses the performing arts center with an auditorium that can seat all of Franklin’s students and a couple of smaller stages, which provide state of the art lighting and behind the scenes technology training.

Karina Ruiz,
Principal Education Planner

It is also where the CTE / Career Preparedness classrooms are. These include: engineering robotics, metal manufacturing, woods/construction, industrial technology, Black Box (stage), performing arts, science and math classrooms.

“One of the ways we brought the campus together was to shift the playing field 90 degrees. Now the new gym, the biomedical science and the culinary arts building are right next to the outdoor fields,” Ruiz said. Plus, the track was never regulation size so they couldn’t hold track meets and now, thanks to Nike, it is.

There is an interesting anecdote about the football field, known as “The Bowl.” This space was originally planned as a walkway to the school from Division Street but after a heavy rainfall, it caused a sinkhole twenty feet deep in the spot where the field is today.

Tonie Esteban,
Project Architect

“One of the most challenging projects was the reinvention of the auditorium into the library. I wasn’t sure how this was going to turn out, but now looking at the results, it is dramatic, cool and functional,” Esteban said.

The stage became classrooms, the ground floor book stacks and the mezzanine a seating area with lots of natural light. Natural light is an important benefit in an educational environment because of the improved focus, less distraction and better student health. Ruiz said the overall new design brings a lot of natural light into Franklin.

Franklin’s has a strong college preparatory curriculum as well as Advanced Placement (AP) courses. They offer: engineering, architecture design, construction, law/constitution, journalism and other bachelor of arts preparatory courses.

The  high school has transitioned into not only college preparatory institution, but also offers vocational training to give all students an opportunity to have a marketable skill once they graduate.

First to register

When Franklin was first built, it was the fourth high school in Portland and there were 136 students in attendance. Due to the post war Baby Boom in 1947, the school passed a levy to increase the size to 219,574 sq. ft. with a student capacity of about 1,200. The new Franklin is 280,000 sq. ft with 1,700 student capacity.

Esteban appreciates Skanska Construction and all the sub-contractors  who went above and beyond to get this project done on time and on budget; especially since working on a hundred year old building often held surprises.

“Franklin represents the yin and yang of preservation. We reinvented and repurposed some of the historic portions of the building while modernizing everything for today’s learning, plus, we stayed in budget,” Esteban said.

“This is a gem not only to teach the children but also for the community.”