October 21, 2001 11:00 pm
WELL MAINTAINED: La Grande Middle School is among the classroom buildings that have been found to be in good overall condition by a school district citizens facilities committee. (The Observer/DICK MASON).
WELL MAINTAINED: La Grande Middle School is among the classroom buildings that have been found to be in good overall condition by a school district citizens facilities committee. (The Observer/DICK MASON).

By Dick Mason

Observer Staff Writer

Rating the condition of the La Grande School Districts classroom buildings is a challenging process.

One reason: appearances are sometimes deceiving.

The La Grande Middle Schools building is a good example. The building is 26 years old yet it does not look its age because it so well maintained.

The middle school does not have interior problems but if it did they would be hidden by its well maintained interior and exterior.

The building is an illusion because it has been so well kept up. It should show a lot more wear, said Richard Bauscher, a facilities consultant from Caldwell, Idaho.

Bauscher is helping the La Grande School Districts citizens facilities committee to analyze all the classroom buildings to determine what steps should be taken to maintain them.

The facilities committee has 30 members divided into seven sub-committees. All seven sub-committees examined each school and prepared a report on its needs.

The reports contained some common elements. For example, all schools need new dishwashers because the ones they have are old and undependable. The dishwashers range in age from 26 to 50 years old.

In addition, the sub-committees found that many schools have problems with their heating systems.

Design West, an architectural firm in Nampa, Idaho, is determining what it would cost to remodel the buildings based on the reports submitted.

A breakdown of the costs will be presented to the full committee on Nov. 5. The facilities committee will later make a recommendation to the school board regarding how it should address its classroom building maintenance issue.

It may suggest that remodeling be done with present funds. It also could recommend that a bond levy is needed to pay for remodeling. The recommendation will be made after a survey of 400 residents of the La Grande School District is made. The facilities committee will oversee the survey.

Following are summaries of the committees analysis of the school districts classroom buildings. These summaries do not list everything covered by the committee reports.

Central Elementary School

Strengths: The roof is in good condition and the building is structurally sound.

Concerns: New outside doors are needed, new plumbing fixtures are needed throughout the building. The carpet is getting worn in some places and the lighting in the hallways is dim.

Here are the other school needs:

Greenwood Elementary

Strengths: The school is in good shape overall. The schools roof and ceiling are in good condition.

Concerns: Greenwoods single-paned windows need to be replaced to save energy. The stage curtain is old and should be removed or replaced. Lighting in the east hallway is poor and the fire alarm is old and may need to be replaced.

Island City Elementary

Strengths: The schools roof is in good shape and the building is structurally sound.

Concerns: The schools electrical heating system is inefficient and ineffective. A number of individual heating units in classrooms are not operating because replacement parts for them are no longer available. It is difficult to conserve heat because of the open interior design of the school. Conserving energy at Island City Elementary is particularly important because electrical heat is so expensive. There is no storage space and the siding on the southwest side and rear of the building needs to be replaced.

La Grande High School

Strengths: The schools buildings are structurally sound and have been well maintained.

Concerns: The roofs on its two main buildings are nearing the end of their guarantees and should be replaced in several years. The bleachers in the gym need to be replaced and some of the restrooms are not accessible to persons with disabilities. The pipes in the schools old building, which dates from the early 1950s, should be replaced. The new building, which was constructed in 1976 and has an open design, poses security concerns because its classrooms do not have doors.

La Grande Middle School

Strengths: The 26-year-old building has been well maintained.

Concerns: Air conditioning is needed because the second floor often gets hot. The buildings roof will need to be replaced soon because there is just one year left on its warranty. Something needs to be done so that secretaries can see people entering the building and a video-surveillance system has been suggested. A handicapped accessible restroom is needed.

Riveria Elementary

Strengths: The school, built in 1912, is historic and its gym floor is in good condition.

Concerns: The mortar in the schools bricks is not sound. The heating system is old and inefficient and the library needs to be expanded. An elevator is needed to make the three-story building accessible to persons with disabilities.

Willow Elementary

Strengths: The schools ceilings are in good shape.

Concerns: Willows heating system is not working well. The height of the schools 30- to 40-foot chimney needs to be reduced because it is leaning. There are no public restrooms on the main floor and an elevator is needed to make the two-story school accessible to the handicapped. More space is needed for the schools library.