COOS BAY — Not only does Blossom Gulch Elementary sit on a marsh, but it was built on the former site of “Blossom's Logging Camp” in 1954 and sinks more and more every year.
“This school isn't sustainable,” said district maintenance manager Rick Roberts.
To deal with the endless list of problems the school presents to the Coos Bay School District, school officials are placing a bond measure on this May's ballot for $66.4 million. The money would address structural challenges for every school in the district, Blossom Gulch being the most serious.
If the bond passes in May, the district plans on rebuilding Eastside Elementary and moving Blossom Gulch students there, effectively shutting Blossom Gulch's doors for good.
“I went to Blossom Gulch,” said superintendent Bryan Trendell. “But there comes a point where you can't continue to patch it and piece it together. In one sense it's sad that it has to go away, but it's exciting that a new facility is going to be built and the kids get a brand new building.
"For those of us who are nostalgic, we aren't here everyday. It's the teachers and students being impacted, and that's not right.”
Roberts doesn't believe that the district would “win this battle” to bring Blossom Gulch back up to standard. Because it is sinking, the school's sewer line may soon be impacted.
“There is an elevation challenge to connect our lines to the city's main line,” Roberts said. “We haven't experienced that yet, but there will be a point one day where that won't make it, perhaps three or five years down the road. When it does happen, you're looking at $300 a foot. Those costs would be astronomical.”
The school boilers are also outdated, taking up a large section of the school. The district replaced similar boilers in another building that cost $69,000 to install, one that is also much smaller and uses new technology. Which means when a part breaks, the district won't have to take it to a local business and ask for it to be fabricated, then wait two to three months to have it returned.
“The heating here isn't efficient when it's cold either,” said day custodian Margie Creamer. “We have 30 individual window panes in every room, and these are single window panes. If it gets cold, teachers call me and I call maintenance, but usually when it's cold, it's just going to be cold.”
Cracks in sidewalks also pose a tripping hazard and stairs continue to separate from the building. Roberts provided The World with a complete list of future maintenance needs for the elementary school, which include:
door and hardware replacement
parking lot repairs
heating system upgrades/replacements
gym/cafeteria roof replacement
asbestos pipe insulation abatement
waste line replacement
electrical capacity upgrades
technology cabling upgrades
asbestos floor tile abatement
“When you experience the buildings every day, you get desensitized,” Roberts said. “When you ask what's wrong, well . . . it's all wrong.”
If the bond passes, Eastside Elementary will be torn down and rebuilt before Blossom Gulch students are transferred. Though Eastside doesn't have nearly the amount of problems that Blossom Gulch carries, its original frame was built in the early 1900s and the building replaced in 1949. It was closed in 2002 when the district reorganized its three elementary schools due to decreasing student population.
“Blossom Gulch is at capacity, and to accommodate growing class sizes we prepared two of Eastside Elemtary's classrooms and one hallway to take in the overflow,” Roberts said.
However, the building still needs to undergo seismic upgrades, ADA upgrades (including an elevator), asbestos tile floor abatement, boiler stack repairs/replacements, and technology cabling upgrades, including numerous other upgrades and replacements.
“I came from a school district in eastern Oregon with eight schools and the oldest school was 15 years,” Roberts said. “New schools are being built so that years later they will stand up to the geographical area they are in, and will have new technology, line of sight in the hallways, cameras, and the ability to focus on security.”
Right now, Eastside Elementary is only used by Pacific School of Dance, that rents the space, and occasionally Millicoma Middle School will use its gym. Otherwise, Trendell said kids think ghosts live in Eastside's hallways, which are rotting and falling apart.
“It's easy to say the buildings were fine for me when I went through them, but when you understand all the parts that are not optimal, people empathize with that,” Webster said. “It's a good time to take ownership and pride back into our school community. It's time to be involved with something that takes us forward, not holds us back.”