The La Grande School District is losing vegetation but gaining three new roofs, a classroom and more.

The addition and subtraction are due to summer upgrade work beginning in the La Grande School District, work that will leave the school district a safer place with additional and improved classroom space.

Much of the upgrade work will be funded by state seismic grants and money from the school district’s capital projects and maintenance fund.

“We have been putting money into (the capital projects and maintenance) fund for several years,” said Joe Justice, chair of the La Grande School Board.

Greenwood Elementary is receiving some of the most extensive renovations. Work being done there
includes seismic upgrades to make the school safer in the event of an earthquake.

Seismic upgrades include the replacement of the roof over Greenwood’s classrooms. Crews have already made substantial progress in setting the stage for this.

“The metal roof over the classrooms has been removed completely,” said Joseph Waite, the La Grande School District’s bond and facilities manager.

The new roof will include seismic plywood sheathing which crews will soon start putting in.

The seismic work will also include the installation of seismic shear walls for some classrooms. These walls will include metal moment resisting frames, which have greater flexibility, allowing larger movements during an earthquake, according to the website

Upgrades also set for Greenwood include the replacement of its aging gym floor. The floor has already been removed and the new one has been delivered to the school district. The floor is now being acclimated so it will fit perfectly when installed. Acclimation is necessary because when wood flooring is moved to a different area it can expand or contract depending up the humidity level. Waite said the new floor will be installed in about two weeks.

Greenwood’s gym will also be receiving a new roof and windows this summer. Crews have already taken off the old roof and taken out its windows.

Other work at Greenwood set for this summer include the installation of acoustical ceiling tiles in the kindergarten hallway to soundproof it and a new wheelchair lift.

Seismic upgrades are the most significant projects scheduled at La Grande High School. The roof over the LHS gym will be replaced by one with plywood sheathing as part of this process. Seismic work in the gym will also include making additional structural connections from the new roof to the structure’s large beams and concrete walls, Waite said.

Seismic work will also be done in LHS’s boys and girls locker rooms, where structural supports are now being installed after their ceilings were removed.

“(The structural supports) will provide added resistance to seismic forces,” Waite said.

Work at LHS also includes dramatically upgrading the culinary arts room in the old portion of its high school. Crews are already far along in this process. Old cabinets and the cook station have been removed, and the installation of new cook stations and a hood to prevent smoke from going out into the classroom will soon start. The crew will have the new cooking structure in place sometime after July 4 and then the hood will be installed.

The new appliances and food prep stations to be installed will have a noteworthy impact, Waite said.

“It will resemble a commercial kitchen instead of a 1950s kitchen,” the bond and facilities director said.

Justice said people in the school district had discussed placing the upgraded culinary arts classroom in the LHS’s new career technical education classroom building which was completed about two years ago with funds from a $31.5 million bond local voters approved in 2014.

It was decided though, Justice said, that it would be more efficient instead to retrofit the existing culinary classroom.

“It is a more responsible use of funds,” Justice said.

At La Grande Middle School work will begin later this summer on building a new classroom in the alcove on the south side of the main entrance. The alcove is now an open space with three walls and student lockers which will be moved out. The new classroom is needed because LMS’s enrollment is growing.

The school had 510 students in 2017-18, 550 students in 2018-19, is not expected to grow in 2019-20 and is projected to have 600 students in 2020-21, said Principal Kyle McKinney.

McKinney said the classroom will be welcome because it will allow all teachers to have their own room.

“Teachers like to have their own space,” McKinney said.

Choir classes will be taught in the new classroom. Presently choir is taught in a classroom where health classes are also taught.

Construction of the new classroom has not started but materials have been ordered for it. The same crew that will be building the culinary arts classroom will also be constructing the classroom.

“The crew will be bouncing between the LHS culinary arts room and this (the LMS classroom) project,” Waite said.

Crews are also hard at work on safety projects. They include the removal shrubs and overgrown bushes throughout the school district.

“We want to eliminate areas where people could conceal themselves,” Waite said.

Such vegetation has already been removed at LMS and Island City Elementary School and is now being taken out at Greenwood and LHS.

Safety work will also involve the installation of additional fencing at LHS to allow everyone inside the school be in a completely secured environment.

Fencing will also be installed between LHS and Central Elementary School’s playground to close off the fields and playground at that location.