District narrows in on plan

Bond for new CHS building could appear on November ballot

Gazette-Times reporter

Corvallis school officials are weighing two options for where to build a replacement Corvallis High School. A new building is part of the district's long range facility plan and could be included in a November bond measure.

One option would be to rebuild on the same spot as the 80-year-old structure now sits.(1) The other would place the school where the football field is at with the entrance facing Buchanan Avenue.(2)

Option One
Option Two

Residents that live near the school want the main CHS building to stay put. But teachers at the school and some board members said they're worried that housing students someplace else would disrupt their education.

At a school board work session last week, facilities director Fred Wright said he'd prefer to keep the school where it's at, to maximize the limited space available on the property and preserve all the athletic playing and practice fields. But that would mean the district would have to find a place to hold classes for Corvallis High's 1,300 students for two-and-a-half years.

"The piece we need to study more is how do we provide a good education for the two to two-and-a-half years," Wright said.

The school board decided to build a replacement school for CHS as its current location on Northwest 11th Street and Buchanan Avenue last spring. The district looked for property to build the school someplace else in town land was very expensive and none of the other sites considered were centrally located.

In its recommendation, the facilities committee said building CHS facing the building toward Buchanan Avenue would give it a strong community presence with separate parking, bus and drop off areas to allow for good onsite movement. The placement of the building in relation to parking and playing fields was also considered a positive feature, and students could continue to attend classes in the old building until the new school was ready.

Neighbors objected to this option because it would disrupt parking and traffic patterns and put athletic fields near people's homes.

Building the school where it sits now would cause the least impact on the neighborhood, the committee said. This option would also have separate parking, and bus drop off areas and all the athletic fields could be kept. The committee report said although students and their activities may need to be moved for 2 to 3 years, it may be worth the disruption if it was the best place for the future life of the building.

Wright said CHS doesn't make efficient use of the limited space. Architects recommend a 40-acre site for schools with 1,300 to 1,500 students. However, the 235,000 square-feet building needed for educational space would fit on the property using either option, architects said. The master site plan would include the property to the west of the school that is occupied by Franklin School, but the district hasn't decided if or when it would move that program elsewhere.

"It wouldn't affect placement of the school, but it would help with field space marginally and parking space significantly," Wright said.

The architect hired to design a new CHS also built a replacement high school in Grants Pass while kids were in the building, a possibility the district is looking into. A few school board members, including Sara Gelser, questioned whether it was appropriate to keep the building where its at considering the distraction to teachers and students.

"I'm uncomfortable with a plan if it means jeopardizing education to preserve a baseball field," Gelser said.

A committee that wrote the facility recommendation also considered bonding options to pay for the replacement school and talked about whether it would be feasible to consolidate the two high schools to save money.

Kari Rieck, a parent on the committee, said consolidating Crescent Valley and Corvallis high schools at this time was not a good idea. Combining the schools would produce the largest high school in the state, and neither facility has adequate space to house all the students and programs.

The district would save $362,000 a year if there was only one high school, but there would be a lot of ongoing costs associated with merging the schools, Rieck said.

"It would take $50 million to make room at CV, and CHS is not big enough," Rieck said. "There would be a lack of opportunities for students if the schools consolidated and kids won't be as known."

Next week, the school board is expected to decide on a November bond measure that would ask voters to increase local property taxes to pay for improvements to school buildings and possibly to build a replacement CHS and a replacement middle school for Highland View and Western View.

Depending on which projects are included, the measure could be anywhere from $9 million to $86 million. If new schools were not built, the district would still need to make repairs to the schools. A prioritized list of deferred maintenance needs is included in each bonding package.

Becky Waldrop covers youth and education for the Gazette-Times. She can be reached by e-mail at waldropb@gtconnect.com or by phone at 758-9510.

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