New year, new schools, new look

Construction abounds in Camas and Washougal districts

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Back to school information

Camas School District

School begins Tuesday, Sept. 6.

Camas High School: Freshman Success Academy orientation from 10:30 a.m. to noon on Monday, Aug. 29; ninth grade orientation from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.; 10th grade orientation from 8 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. Thursday, Sept. 1; 11th grade orientation from 1 to 4 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 31; and 12th grade orientation from 1 to 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 30. MST Magnet orientation will be held from 3 to 5 p.m. Aug. 30.

Hayes Freedom High School: All-grade drop in from 1 to 3 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 1.

Skyridge Middle School: All open houses and new student orientation will take place Tuesday, Aug. 30. Times are 1 to 2 p.m., eighth grade; 3 to 4 p.m. seventh grade; and 5 to 6:30 p.m., sixth grade.

Liberty Middle School: Sixth grade and new student orientation, 5 to 7 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 30. Seventh and eighth graders’ open house is 5 to 7 p.m., Wednesday, Aug. 31.

All elementary schools: Back to school nights are 4 to 6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 1.

Washougal School District

School begins Wednesday, Sept. 7

Cape Horn-Skye Elementary: Back to school night/curriculum night: 4 to 4:45 p.m. and 5:30 to 6:15 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 1.

Canyon Creek: Back to school night, 5 to 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 6.

Gause Elementary: Open house 5 to 6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 1.

Hathaway Elementary: Back to school night and open house, 6 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 1.

Jemtegaard Middle School: Back to school night, 6 to 7 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 31.

Washougal High School/Excelsior High School: All back to school events take place on Monday, Aug. 29. Students will pay ASB fees, get school pictures/ID Card, and pick up Chromebooks and schedules.

Events are scheduled from 8 to 10 a.m., 12th grade; 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., 11th grade and Excelsior High School students; 1 to 3 p.m., 10th grade; and 4 to 7 p.m., ninth grade.

The chatter of students in the hallways and bright yellow buses on the roads will mark the start of school in Camas and Washougal in less than two weeks.

But activity in and around local schools has already been in full swing this summer, with a myriad of construction projects in both districts due to a $120 million voter-approved bond in Camas, and a $57.68 million bond in Washougal.

“There’s always a bit of an end of the summer rush, but our staff and contractors have been working hard to complete the projects on time,” said Jeff Snell, Camas superintendent.

Projects in the Camas School District include safety upgrades at all schools, roof replacement at Dorothy Fox Elementary, a new project-based middle school pilot program, and a parking lot at Camas High School.

Upcoming projects include the new Lacamas Heights Elementary School, upgrading the Joyce Garver auditorium and building, and a project-based learning high school on the Sharp campus, next to the middle school. The district recently purchased a Sharp Laboratories of America building and surrounding 31 acres of property for the schools.

Snell, who directed a committee that researched and developed the bond projects, described watching the projects come to fruition as, “amazing.”

“A lot of community input and staff work have gone into each project so it’s really gratifying,” he said.

Snell added, “The middle school pilot program will be complete in time for the beginning of this school year. For the next few school years we plan to increase the number of middle school students in this building until it is full. The project based high school, that will be built on the same campus, is scheduled to open in 2018.”

During a recent hot summer day, workers from Green Construction did site work to prepare the new parking lot at Camas High School for paving. It will provide an additional 190 parking spots.

“We are cautiously optimistic that the new parking lot will help us meet the demand for on-campus parking,” said Steve Marshall, principal. “During the last school year, we had around 450 spots for students, including our main parking lot and overflow lot.”

In addition to continuing the “double-booking” of spaces (assigning one space to two students with complementary schedules), CHS will also launch a couple of other environmentally friendly initiatives this fall, which include having 10 designated carpool spaces to encourage ride sharing, and continuing the Doc Harris-CHS shuttle, which makes the stadium parking lot a park-and-ride for students.

“The new parking lot is on-schedule and, although it will open after the first day of school, it should help alleviate some of the parking pressure around the middle of the month,” Marshall said. “Based on recent years, parents and students should expect a lot of traffic before school because of the increased number of parent drop-offs and beginning-of-the-year excitement, which translates into students getting up earlier.”

At Liberty Middle School, security enhancements, including doors and a new vestibule, are in the works.

“We’ve had a lot of work done at Liberty this summer including a much needed cosmetic overhaul as well as significant security enhancements,” said Gary Moller, principal. “A few years ago, we added a back fence and gate that sealed off our back entrance, making a safe corridor between the music building and the main building. This was our first step in making the building more secure.”

After the current work is complete, visitors will have to be buzzed through the outer set of doors, and the new vestibule will direct them into the office.

“This will give us more control of who comes into the school and help us keep an accurate accounting of who comes and goes,” Moller said.

In Washougal, current projects include the new Columbia River Gorge Elementary and Jemtegaard Middle School, Excelsior High School and transportation facility, as well as safety and security improvements at all schools. All projects are expected to be complete by August 2018.

“The construction work is progressing as planned and we are on time with all projects,” said Mike Stromme, Washougal superintendent. “The great year of planning and the current weather conditions have allowed us to keep all projects on the intended schedules.”

He continued, “We are putting the finishing touches on the school security upgrades to the front entrances. We do not anticipate any impact to schools as we open the doors to students and families in the next two weeks leading up to the first day of school. It is exciting to have site work and building foundations underway. In the next month, the community will see walls being constructed.”

The new elementary, replacement middle school and new high school will be ready by the start of the 2017-18 school year. Todd Construction of Tigard is the general contractor.

Since the new elementary and middle schools are sited in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic area, the school district had to submit plans to the gorge commission for review, in addition to the usual permitting requirements.

“It’s basically another layer of review,” said Joe Steinbrenner, facilities director. “They extensively review everything with the exterior and make sure it meets certain requirements. It’s great to have construction progressing now.”

The new Excelsior High School will replace the old, drafty, leaking portables. It will include an open classroom style design with glass windows, a community room available for rental during non school hours, and even a washer, dryer and shower facility.

“This school serves a population that can make good use of these amenities,” said Rene Carroll, district spokeswoman.

The new transportation facility is located behind the district administration building at 4855 Evergreen Way. A foundation for the maintenance facility, as well as prep work for additional parking, is underway. PHI Construction of Tigard is the contractor. The transportation facility will be complete in December.

“We have a fantastic team in place for these projects,” Steinbrenner said. “Everything has been very manageable.”