The Wallowa School District is one step closer to renovating its school buildings. On Monday night the district’s board of directors learned which repairs and remodeling projects were recommended by Pivot, their Technical Assistance Program (TAP) consultant team.

Replacement of aging, balky heating systems and improved, ADA handicapped accessibility were among the top recommendations.

The Pivot team will have cost estimates prepared within the next few weeks, according to John Stapleton, a partner and architect with Pivot.

The Pivot team produced these recommendations after listening to community members, students, teachers and staff, and also conducting engineering assessments of school conditions.

The recommendations focused separately on each building on the campus. The board will begin the process of deciding which to undertake once Pivot has provided cost estimates, and the board has had the opportunity to listen to community opinions and concerns. Pivot architect John Stapleton presented the findings.

Recommendations for the Cougar Dome gym included constructing a 2,500-square-foot addition to the north end of the building to provide new locker rooms and a place to house Cougar teams and equipment. Existing locker rooms would be converted into facilities maintenance and storage space. Other recommended modifications included constructing two new handicapped-accessible restrooms, building a new, more weatherproof entryway, providing more outdoor lighting on the walkway to Highway 82, and constructing an ADA-compliant hallway and ramp to connect the gym with the high school building.

The board has applied for a grant to seismically retrofit the Cougar Dome. If awarded, the funds might partly, but would not fully, cover the renovations.

Recommended repairs and upgrades to the high school building included installing a new heating (and possibly cooling) system, providing a more secure entryway and an elevator for ADA-compliant access to all floors of the building and renovating restrooms to be ADA-compliant. Options to make the school more student-friendly included renovating the library and Cougar Den into a Student Learning Center. Science labs also need renovation and updating.

In the elementary school, recommendations also included providing a secure entryway along with a new heating system, replacing water and wastewater piping, replacing lighting and modifying a portion of the playground into an outdoor learning commons.

“The building should have a secure vestibule, but you should be able to lock it down during the day when there are classes,” Stapleton said.

Pivot noted that in the “block” building, which houses the shop, welding, ag and music areas, windows are failing, and again, the heating system needs to be replaced.

“Given the likely cost of repairs, you might be wise to take the building down and build a new one,” Stapleton said.

Schools across Oregon are undertaking similar evaluations with funding under the TAP program. Other grants, including up to $2.5 million for seismic retrofits, and Oregon School Capital Improvement Matching Program (OSCIM) funds match bonds for school repairs that are passed by communities.

The Wallowa School District Board is considering placing a bond on the May 2021 ballot. But they intend to share and discuss the bevy of choices with the community before making any decisions.

“We have a long way to go and a lot to consider,” said board member Polly DeVore. “We will want to thoroughly understand what the school needs and what the community will support.”

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