Community Engagement

During the January 8 St. Helens School Board work session, table groups of community members were tasked with reducing a list of $65 million in needed improvements down to $50 million, then $40 million and finally $30 million, accordingly.

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The St. Helens School Board is expected to take action in February to approve a bond package amount to best update St. Helens High School and serve the St. Helens community for many years to come, according to a release from the school district.

The following is the release from the St. Helens School District.

St. Helens High School was initially constructed in 1958 and then expanded in 1982. Over time, the District modified the building when possible to keep up with the changes in technology, security and educational needs of a changing world.

It is clear the infrastructure no longer adequately supports the needs of students.

The current design of the St. Helens High School with four separate buildings made sense in 1982, yet it creates significant safety and security issues in 2020. The classrooms are small, outdated and lack the ability to properly support technology and teaching in the 21st century. The current condition of St. Helens High School is well known throughout the community and is the reason St. Helens School District has received strong support to address the obvious need for renovation.

In the spring of 2019, the St. Helens School District began a discussion with community members about what they felt was needed to bring the High School up to 21st century standards. A Bond Development Committee was convened and went to work identifying the updates and improvements required for the High School. The culmination of that work was a $65 million bond package to completely update and renovate St. Helens High School.

Over the summer and into the fall the St. Helens School District met and surveyed community members to obtain their opinion on the overall package. Through this process they learned that the community supports a complete update to St. Helens High School, yet wanted to know more details about those updates and improvements. In addition, although resoundingly supportive, the community wanted the School District to consider reducing the overall cost of the package.

Given this feedback, the School Board hosted a bond development fine-tuning activity at its January 8 School Board work session. Table groups of community members were tasked with reducing a list of $65 million in needed improvements down to $50 million, then $40 million and finally $30 million, accordingly.

Groups were provided an aerial map of the High School with tokens that corresponded to construction costs ranging from a $50,000 enclosed walkway between buildings B and C to a $17.87 million new 2-story classroom addition.

The task proved challenging when keeping in mind the community wanted the entire High School updated rather than just portions of it. All the groups were able to get to the $50 million threshold with some unwanted concessions, yet really struggled to get down to the $40 million number and still maintain the express community wish to completely update the entirety of St. Helens High School.

There was consensus among the table work groups that getting to the $30 million price point made it impossible to update the entire High School to 21st century learning standards.

The St. Helens School Board will consider the feedback from the community regarding their wish to completely upgrade the school as well as the cost. Their next step is to review costs and renovation proposals that received support by the community to completely upgrade the school.

St. Helens High School Bond Updates and Improvement Priorities

Security and Health Safety

  • Create enclosed connections between buildings with a secured vestibule at the entry
  • Install new cameras and reduce the number of unmonitored entrances
  • Replace outdated or failing fire safety systems

Update and Repair Aging Buildings

  • Upgrade windows and insulation
  • Repair or replace aging, inefficient heating and cooling systems
  • Replace a 30 plus year roof
  • Improve air quality and daylighting

Modernize High School Career and Vocational Trainings Labs

  • Expand and upgrade facility and systems to 21st century standards
  • Add a Medical Career Technology pathway
  • Increase offerings to better align with OMIC and PCC Programs
  • Improve and expand the current Career and Technical Education spaces

Replace and Upgrade Classrooms and Learning Spaces

  • Completely replace Building A classrooms with a new wing connecting to the rest of the building
  • Convert unusable space in Building B to instructional space by better utilizing classroom configurations
  • Redesign and add classrooms to accommodate growth and meet the needs of today’s 21st century students
  • Increase access for all students to the latest technologies

Athletics and Auditorium

  • Expand seating in the gym and upgrade the locker rooms
  • Improve and update all playing fields
  • Replace seating and reconfigure auditorium to current standards

Follow this developing story at thechronicleonline.com and in the Wednesday print editions of The Chronicle.

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