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Reopening

The staff of Highland Elementary School joins members of the school board and Superintendent Jon Zwemke in cutting the ribbon to officially re-open the school after seismic retrofitting.

REEDSPORT — Highland Elementary School hosted its grand reopening Tuesday, Jan. 28, celebrating their recently completed seismic retrofit and showing off the changes around the building.

After a ribbon cutting with members of the Highland staff, school board members, and Superintendent Jon Zwemke, people were welcomed to wander the school and see the results of the project. The cafeteria was also set up with hot dogs, chips and lemonade for everyone to enjoy.

All around the building were pictures of how the rooms and hallways looked before, and during, the retrofit. Most of the pictures showed the areas while they were being worked on, giving a good view of how things used to look and what was put in the walls and floor.

Zwemke and Highland staff were around throughout the hour-long open house to answer questions, talk about what work was done and discuss the improvements. Highland Principal Amanda O'Brien said the staff was excited to get the building back completely and for it to be safer for everyone there.

Zwemke recalled the contractors acknowledged the schedule would be tight, carrying over into the school year. While some work during the 2019-20 school year was expected, completing the work, mixed with a broken water pipe flooding a classroom, caused further delays. The retrofit was officially completed right after winter break.

O'Brien recalled the last teachers were getting their classrooms back just in time to come back to school after the holidays. She said some teachers were getting their classrooms set back up the day before classes started in January.

"It made it very difficult getting classes up and going," O'Brien said of the short schedule, though she added that it was worth it. "We were doing it knowing kids would be coming into a safer building. It was difficult … but we're glad we're through it."

Zwemke also praised everyone involved for getting through everything and making sure the school day didn't slow down.

"Through it all the staff and students stuck together, they made things on a daily basis, they made sure education was happening," he said.

The Highland Parents Organization was also at the open house to give information, and the school asked visitors to fill out a survey during the visit.

The renovations upgraded and reinforced points around the structure of the school, as well as securing it to the ground. Zwemke said under a big enough earthquake, the building could potentially still collapse, but the retrofitting means the building will stay strong for longer and allow everyone to get to safety. The reinforcements also mean the building is expected to break into chunks rather than fully collapsing.

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Reporter Adam Robertson can be reached at 541-297-3590, or by email at adam.robertson@theworldlink.com.

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