Changes on the horizon for Washougal

New schools expected to open in September 2017

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Despite recent winter weather that prevented many from working, construction is expected to remain on schedule in the Washougal School District.

“We had workers here every single day during the winter storms,” said Joe Steinbrenner, facilities director. “The contractors have developed makeup schedules to get the projects back on track.”

Current building projects include a $47 million, new 550-student elementary and 600-student Jemtegaard Middle School and a $4.8 million new Excelsior High School.

Originally, the elementary school was projected to hold 400 students, but with some tweaks to the inside, has been modified to house up to 55O.

The projects are funded through a $57.68 million capital bond, approved by voters in February 2015. Todd Construction, a Tualatin, Oregon, company, is the general contractor.

A new, $2.3 million transportation facility, behind the district office at 4855 Evergreen Way, is expected to wrap up in March.

Excelsior will be complete in April and Jemtegaard Middle School/Columbia Gorge Elementary will open in September.

“Being able to deliver a product that exceeds the commitments made to the community is the best part of this whole process,” said Steinbrenner.

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.

“Obtaining permits for the projects in the Columbia River Scenic Gorge area and maintaining the budgets with rapidly escalating construction costs have been the most challenging aspects of construction,” Steinbrenner said.

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.

In addition to new buildings, a variety of safety and security upgrades were implemented: An upgrade to all Washougal School District classrooms allows the doors to be locked from the inside.

The front entryway at every district school has been upgraded to require visitors to first go into the office before gaining access to the schools’ internal hallways. Security cameras have been replaced and added, and vehicle gates and security fencing have been upgraded to increase campus security and student/staff safety.

Lastly, $1.6 million in HVAC and roof improvements has been completed. Skyward Construction of Portland is the contractor.

The future of the current transportation facility and property at 995 “E” St. will be determined by the School Board at a later date.

The Jemtegaard Middle School building will be demolished after this school year. A new bus circulation road, athletic field and track will be constructed in its place.

Some of the neighbors near the transportation facility have complained about the lighting being intrusive. Steinbrenner noted it is being addressed.

“The lighting levels are being reviewed to ensure they meet the design criteria,” he said. “The contractor (PHI Construction) is looking at different shielding methods to mitigate any stray light levels.” For more information about the bond projects, visit www.washougal.k12.wa.us/bond-project-updates/.