Union School Bond

The pillars of the east entrance of Union High School now are easier to see after the removal of trees. Bond-funded work in 2021 on the entrance will boost security at the school.

UNION — Bond-funded renovation work in the Union School District in 2021 will modernize its aging buildings and wake up the echoes of one structure’s past.

A presentation on the 2021 bond work made these points Wednesday night, Dec. 9, at a meeting of the Union School Board. Renovation work is set to start in March, said Cassie Hibbert of the Wenaha Group, which is serving as the construction management provider for the school district. Hibbert said exterior work will be done while school is in session and interior projects will be undertaken in the summer.

Projects include restoring the steps of Union High School’s east entrance, which features four ornate pillars that are least 100 years old. The stairway work will allow the entrance, which has been closed for years because of the poor condition of its steps, to open again.

That reopening also will boost security because the foyer of the entrance will be renovated into a security vestibule where secretaries can monitor everyone coming into the building, said Union School District Superintendent Carter Wells.

After the renovations, the old entrance on school days will serve as the only entrance to the school, which was built about 1912. The present main entry point is on its north side, and that will be closed on school days.

The old main entryway is much easier to see now because of the recent removal of large trees that obscured its view. Richard Higgins of BLURB Architects, the firm doing the design work for the bond projects, praised the school district for taking this step. Seeing the entrance, he said, “adds to the grandeur of the building.”

Additional work at the high school in 2021 includes the installation of an elevator on the south side of the building.

“It will give all individuals access to every part of the building,” Wells said.

This will help the school district meet its top bond project goal, which is to ensure very person can access the campus with dignity, Wells said.

Major renovations also will improve accessibility to the school’s gym building, including the installation of wheelchair platforms near the gym floor.

Work in 2021 also calls for replacing the grass field in front of the east entrance of Union Elementary School’s S.E. Miller building with a parking lot. Parents then could drive up to the front of the school to pick up and drop off children rather than at the the building’s south entrance parking lot, which has more traffic because it is about 100 feet from the high school, Wells said.

The $4 million bond school district voters approved in 2019 will fund the renovations, along with another $4 million in a grant from the the Oregon School Capital Improvement Matching Program.

The Union School District, under state law, has three years to spend 85% of the $8 million in funding it will receive. Bond project work started this past summer with the replacement of the roof for Union Elementary School’s Hutchinson building.

Wells said rising construction costs may mean the school district’s bond and grant funding will not go as far as some had anticipated, but it still will help the school district enormously.

“The long-term impact for future groups of students will be tremendous,” Wells said.

General assignment reporter

Beats include the communities of North Powder, Imbler, Island City and Union, education, Union County veterans programs and local history. Dick joined The Observer in 1983, first working as a sports and outdoors reporter.

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