A milestone meeting happened Wednesday in a Hood River landmark.
The Hood River County School District Board, meeting for the last time in the existing May Street Elementary School, approved setting a $24.9 million maximum price for the cost of creating a new school and campus.
“I think we’re about to spend about as much money in one evening as we ever have,” said Board Chairman Mark Johnson prior to the board’s unanimous approval. (All board members except Tom Scully and Julie Garcia-Ramirez were present.)
Setting of the May Street price was not the only construction-related action by the board: it also approved a $2.5 million contract with Griffin Construction on the Coe Facility/alternative school project, which will begin in earnest next week with asbestos abatement in the 103-year-old Coe. It will become the new District Office, and the neighboring building, now home to District Office, will be transformed into the alternative high school and other offices.
Meanwhile, major steps have happened in bond projects at Westside Elementary and at Wy’east Middle School. The board heard from Dale Kuykendall and other representatives of the Weneha Group, who oversee the extensive list of construction bond projects.
With both May Street and the Coe/alternative school budgets, bids came in over budget, so a long list of specific cuts and changes to design elements and other details was created by district officials and Weneha Group. The changes reduced from $2.9 to $2.5 million the Coe/alternative school project and from $25.9 million to $24.9 million at May Street.
Ground-breaking on the new May Street School will be at 3 p.m. on Feb. 12, according to Principal Kelly Beard. The event will be outside, in the covered play area (cocoa, coffee and cookies to be served, but dress warmly).
Heavy equipment will move in next week on and around the campus bounded by May and June and Ninth and 10th streets. Signs have already gone up in the neighborhood noting a partnership between the district and Providence for use of the nearby parking facility during the construction period.
Beard drew praise Wednesday from Goldman for overseeing the school in a transition period that started over a year ago, with community meetings and design sessions plotting the scale and dimensions of the new school.
“Kelly has and will continue to do so, really taken on a lot more,” Goldman said, “and he has done it with a sense of pride, humility, and deference to the community.”
In other projects, Kuykendall said walls and roof are up on the batting facility at Westside, to be used by the HRVHS team and other groups, and a new artificial turf is scheduled to be installed in time for the start of the season, later this month, according to Kuykendall. Move-in to the STEAM wing at Wy’east should happen over spring break. Meanwhile, re-roofing, security upgrades and other improvements are planned starting this spring at Cascade Locks School, Mid Valley Elementary, and Hood River Middle School.
Goldman and staff presented other positive news to the board, including an update on HRVHS graduation rates, which consistently sit at 85 percent, among the state’s highest and more than 10 percent higher than the state average of 74 percent. This in spite of the district’s higher-than-average proportion of students living in poverty or who speak English as a second language, Goldman noted.
In addition, the board heard a clean audit report from Tara Kamp, of the auditing firm Pauly Rogers and Co., and Finance Director Saundra Buchanan. For the fourth straight year, the district was given an unmodified audit opinion, meaning “there were no exceptions or issues requiring comment with respect to state minimum standards, or issues of non-compliance or questioned costs with regards to federal funding.
“This means we have given a ‘clean audit’ opinion with no reservations or issues or exceptions requiring comments,” Kamp said in her report.
Getting to that point was “a team effort” Buchanan said.
Goldman called it “a bellwether document that really does show the community we take care of their money.”
The board also heard good news on the successful Hood River Valley High School food drive in support of FISH, with FISH treasurer Becky Bugge and HRVHS activities director Lindsy Weseman thanking the district, staff and students, and community volunteers for the highly successful 2017 food drive, which reaped more than $20,000 in financial donations and an estimated 3,300 pounds of donated food.