picture of New Wildcat center with words La Grande School District's summer projects


District projects extend through summer

By Trish Yerges

There are many exciting projects underway throughout the La Grande School District (LGSD) that will be ongoing this summer and the rest of the year.  Supervising these projects is Joseph Waite, LGSD Facilities and Maintenance Director.

Within the next three to four weeks, the district will be expecting receipt of two reader boards, one for the La Grande Middle School and the second for the La Grande High School. 

 “We look forward to having them installed as soon as possible,” Waite said.

 These electronic digital reader boards will be controlled wirelessly and will announce school events, sports and club information.  The digital boards will allow for dynamic messaging, including word, pictures and animations.

 “The high school reader board will replace the sign on 2nd Street and K Avenue, and the middle school’s reader board will replace their sign on 4th Street,” he said.

 In addition to these two reader boards, the district has also ordered a large reader board that will be placed at 1805 Adams Avenue at the new LGSD Plant and Operations Center.   The district partnered with Northwood Manufacturing and Outdoors RV Manufacturing to purchase this electronic reader board. For the La Grande Middle School sign, the district received significant funds from the LMS PTO.

“We will be able to announce all district events, as well as district initiatives to promote learning at school and at home,” Waite added.

 At the La Grande Middle School (LMS) site, the Wildcat Center project is proceeding.  Waite reported that Mike Becker General Contractor (MBGC) is working to refine the design and budget for the project, in anticipation of putting the project out to bid to various subcontractors.  Waite believes construction will begin once school is completed for the summer.

“Mike Becker General Contractor will be demolishing the brick maintenance shop to make room for temporary parking for LMS staff members to park during the construction of the new building,” Waite explained.

The Annex building will remain operational for one more school year (2023-24). The new building will be a pre-engineered steel building with insulated metal siding. There will be three gyms and six conventional classrooms with some rooms with operable partition walls that will make two classrooms into one large meeting space.

“It has been the focus of LGSD to make this new building have a wide variety of functions and spaces to allow all types of programs, events, and activities to be housed in the Wildcat Center for the district's scholastic purposes, but also for our community partners to also utilize this building to enrich the offerings of extracurricular activities in our community,” Waite added.

A third big project involves the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system of the district’s schools.  For this work, LGSD will continue to partner with Johnson Controls Inc. (JCI).  Over the years, JCI has performed many of the district’s projects.  In 2018, LGSD partnered with JCI to complete many energy efficient upgrades throughout all the schools to provide not only a better learning environment for students but a more energy efficient system.

Some of the upgrades included LED lights throughout all schools, new fan coil units, variable frequency drives, unit ventilators and ultra-high energy efficient heat pumps to replace old equipment that had been in operation as early as the 1950s.

“The projected energy savings has reduced the costs of operation and lessened the impact of recent rate increases from all utility providers,” Waite said. 

This summer JCI is working to install a large chiller unit that will provide air conditioning to all the classrooms in the 1950s section of the high school, including the gym and auditorium. They are also reviewing the operations of the existing cooling units that service the second stories of the middle school and high school to ensure they are operating as intended and make any upgrades and adjustments to maximize their cooling capabilities.

Separately, LGSD solicited bids from local contractors to provide cooling to the Career, Technology and Engineering (CTE) building.  Gordon's Electric was awarded the contract, and the district will be working with their crews this summer to add air conditioning to the CTE building.

A fourth ongoing project involves the La Grande High School Seismic rehabilitation work.  The La Grande School District has partnered with WRK Seismic Engineers and CB Construction to seismically reinforce the high school auditorium this summer. 

“The majority of the work will take place in the attic space above the auditorium,” Waite said.  “These upgrades will also include installing plywood sheathing to the roof structure and replacing the roof.”

In addition to this, Waite said that they are also going to revamp the front doors to the gym and auditorium with a new entryway system and configuration of the ticket booth. The funding for this project was provided by the State of Oregon Seismic Rehabilitation Grant.

“The district was awarded $2.49 million to complete these up-grades to the auditorium,” Waite said.

This summer, Waite will supervise the asphalt projects scheduled where the old tennis courts used to be.  This space had been converted into a parking lot and so it will be repaved this year by Hampton Paving.

“The project will include removal of the existing asphalt, regrading and reshaping the lot to allow for better drainage, adding area drains into the city storm water system, repaving and re-striping the lot,” Waite enumerated.

The inner courtyard at Greenwood Elementary School will also get a similar treatment. Roger's Asphalt Paving will perform this work. The courtyard is used for recess and has many cracks and puddles that create slip hazards in the winter months.

On Waite’s list of miscellaneous projects, he noted that the steel ADA ramp at Greenwood will be replaced with a new aluminum ramp that will be compliant to current ADA codes.   “EZ Systems out of Boring, Oregon, has been contracted for this work,” he said.

The north side gym stairs will be replaced with new stairs and a concrete ADA ramp.   This work will be performed by BLW Structural of La Grande.

Carpet One of La Grande will be replacing the carpet in the high school library, completing many upgrades to that space for the students in these last couple years. 

A new playground structure for Greenwood Elementary School, paid for with partial partnership of PTO, will be installed on the east side of Spruce Street in the field across from the school.

Island City Elementary will get some new playground surfacing and potentially a new structure added to their playground. The school will be working with Mike Becker General Contractor for portions of the project. 

Delta Fire has been placed under contract to perform maintenance on the fire suppression systems district wide. 

As usual, the summer routine projects of deep cleaning, waxing of floors, and refinishing gyms will also be in process and completed before the next school year commences.

The district’s administration and families would like to thank Joseph Waite and the Maintenance Department employees for the many hours of hard work that they put in to keep the facilities up to date, safe and functional.