By David Mayne
The Portland Public Schools (PPS) School Improvement Bond Program began construction work in 2013 and has compiled an impressive track record of upgrading and rebuilding schools across the entire District. Bond funded projects have touched every school in the district multiple times with health and safety projects that have improved water quality and provided security upgrades, new roofs, remediation of asbestos, radon and lead paint, new fire alarms and sprinklers, more accessibility and seismic retrofits.
The need for upgrading the district’s schools is vital. Most PPS schools were built before World War II and some are over 100 years old. Starting in 2012, a significant majority of Portland voters agreed and have passed three different bond measures to fund the work.
Five high schools (Franklin, Grant, Leodis V. McDaniel, Lincoln and Roosevelt), one middle school (Kellogg) and Faubion PK-8 have all been modernized or rebuilt. Construction work is now underway to modernize the historic Benson Polytechnic High School and build a new Multiple Pathways to Graduation building on the Benson campus. These buildings will open in the fall 2024. In addition, design work is now underway for a new Jefferson High School that will begin construction in 2024.
A significant amount of bond work has occurred in SE Portland schools. Historic Franklin High School was one of the first schools to be modernized through the 2012 bond. Special care was taken to preserve the original building that dates back to 1915, while at the same time addressing health and safety concerns, transforming the entire campus into a modern learning environment.
By contrast, Kellogg Middle School was completely rebuilt. It represents the vision of PPS for middle school education, offering expanded options and programs for students. The Kellogg building also boasts many environmental sustainability features and is certified as LEED Gold.
Ongoing health and safety projects that address an aging school’s most critical needs have also been a top priority of the bond work. To deal with security concerns, PPS has upgraded building access security systems in all schools, as well as adding new classroom door locking hardware and additional cameras.
Bond dollars have been used to significantly improve water quality. All schools now have new lead filtering drinking water stations. These innovative fixtures provide water that averages less than 1 part per billion (ppb) of lead, greatly exceeding federal standards of 15 ppb.
PPS has increased accessibility at over 30 schools, including the building of new elevators at several sites. The program replaced 41 leaky and deteriorating school roofs with new seismically strengthened roofs. It has also delivered full seismic retrofits at four schools, with a fifth school set to be complete this summer. An additional 12 schools have received partial building-level seismic upgrades.
Additional building improvements include upgrading fire alarms at all schools in the district, providing asbestos remediation at over 20 schools, radon mitigation at 15 schools and safely containing lead paint at over 80 schools across the district.
All this valuable work has been part of a PPS Long Range Facilities Plan that seeks to upgrade and ultimately modernize all schools over the next several decades through a series of bonds. Going forward, PPS will continue the important work of improving and rebuilding our aging schools, making them safer, more sustainable and better equipped for 21st century learning.
To learn more about the Bond Program and see an interactive map that shows the work at each school, visit PPS.net/bond.