Eight-foot diameter white latex weather balloons were set afloat and tethered as markers at Jemtegaard Middle School on Thursday, Aug. 20. The effort completes a site line evaluation for planned construction by the Washougal School District within the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area.
“Each balloon represented the potential roof heights of three proposed building components,” said Joe Steinbrenner, WSD director of maintenance, who is overseeing the district’s new construction projects. “Once set, eight key viewing areas will be visited to see if the balloon, or the attached 5-foot markers, are visible with the naked eye, telephoto lens and binocular.”
The evaluation will demonstrate that the proposed new elementary and middle schools will be either “not visually evident” or “visually subordinate” to the surrounding landscape. This is in accordance to the scenic regulations in the gorge.
The key viewing areas range in distance from one-quarter mile to 11 miles and include locations such as the Sandy River Delta, Vista House at Crown Point, Bridal Veil Falls State Park and the Portland Woman’s Forum at Chanticleer Point. Contractor Robertson Engineering in Vancouver will compete the study.
Actual construction is planned to start in the summer of 2016 and will be ready for the start of school prior to the fall of 2018.
The construction is taking place using funding from a $57.67 million bond, which voters approved in February. It will raise property taxes by 48 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value, costing those with a $300,000 home around $12 per month or $144 per year. These taxes will go into effect in 2016.
The bond will include security enhancements to the foyers at all district schools, construction of a new transportation facility, a new elementary and middle school at the current Jemtegaard Middle School site and a new Excelsior High School, as well as a series of other upgrades and repairs to existing schools.