Visitors flocked to the Heights Elementary School in Seaside Saturday for a groundbreaking and celebration of the new campus construction project.
“What a great day for Seaside!” State Sen. Betsy Johnson said. “You guys have laid down an example not only for this town, but Clatsop County and this state in preparedness and visionary determination to bring this to a conclusion. Today’s the start. We’ll be back when we open the doors and cut the ribbon.”
Johnson, U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, Seaside Mayor Jay Barber and others received welcome from Seaside School District Superintendent Sheila Roley in the public groundbreaking for the project, designed to move endangered schools out of the tsunami inundation zone and to a safe site in the Southeast Hills.
“A community that cares for its children is where I want to live,” Barber said. “And this is a testament of how we care for our children.”
Representatives of the design and construction team, BRIC Architecture, Hoffman Construction and project managers DAY/CPM joined the event and hosted equipment tours.
Everything is falling into place, according to architect Dan Hess.
“We’ve spent so many years on these plans and now it’s coming into place,” Hess said.
The steep site and soils make it “technically challenging, but nothing insurmountable.”
Project Manager Jim Henry agreed that this was a “challenging project.”
“There are a lot of things that happen on a day-to-day basis, and it’s important to have a great team,” Henry said.
Former school district Superintendent Doug Dougherty received credit from speakers including Roley and school board member Mark Truax for Dougherty’s nearly two decades of advocacy for the relocation.
After an initial $128 million bond was defeated in 2013, voters approved $99.7 million for a revised plan in November 2016.
The campus will bring students from three schools located in the tsunami inundation zone to the new location on 89 acres just southeast of Seaside Heights Elementary School.
A new two-story building will house middle and high school students.
Gearhart Elementary School students will attend a renovated and expanded Seaside Heights.
Bonamici recounted her own advocacy for the new schools, inspired by a student-produced video demonstrated that students didn’t have enough time to evacuate to safer, higher ground in case of an earthquake and subsequent tsunami. The video prompted Bonamici to support the efforts of students, staff and community.
“I early on understood the need to move this to safer higher ground,” Bonamici said. “It’s all about these kids in school and the kids in school for generations to come.”
Shovels hit the ground in June with grading, clearing, excavation and erosion control.
Phil Broome of Hoffman Construction said the project was making good headway and “we should be on target.”
The opening for the new campus is scheduled for 2020.