Four Grant County schools were recently awarded Technical Assistance Program grants from Oregon Department of Education’s Office of School Facilities.

Three of the grants assess deferred maintenance issues for school buildings and a fourth determines if seismic upgrades are needed.

Prairie City, Monument, Grant and Dayville school districts received word on March 14 they’d received the TAP grants.

Prairie City School District was also recently awarded a $2.5 million grant from the state’s Seismic Rehabilitation Grant Program.

Monument School District

Monument received three TAP grants, including a Facilities Assessment grant for $20,000, which addresses the current physical condition of the buildings and determines needed renovations; a Long-Range Facility Plan grant for $25,000 to prepare for the future; and a Seismic Assessment grant for $25,000 to determine the condition of district buildings to withstand a significant earthquake.

A fourth TAP grant is also available, called the Environmental Hazard Assessment, which checks school buildings for mold, radon and asbestos.

School districts can apply for matching grants through the Oregon School Capital Improvement Matching Program in order to complete the work recommended by professionals for the long-range, facilities and environmental hazard assessments.

Recommended upgrades from seismic assessments are fully funded by the Seismic Rehabilitation Grant Program.

Monument Superintendent/Principal Donald Petersen said the main building of the school, which houses offices and high school classrooms, is 70-80 years old and made of sandstone.

He anticipates the professionals who assess that building for long-range planning will determine how much longer it will last.

Petersen said they’d likely need to pass a bond in 10 to 20 years to make long-term upgrades.

The conservative community hasn’t passed a bond “in a long time,” he said, but the grants will at least allow them to plan for the future.

Improvements for the short term include areas of the Monument elementary building where there is rotted siding, peeling paint and several large single-pane windows that need replacing, he said.

“We know we need certain repairs,” he said. “This (grant) establishes it professionally, so if we need to, we can get a grant from the state and apply for a matching grant to do the work that we need to do.”

The Oregon Legislature created the Office of School Facilities in 2015. As of last fall, the office had awarded $175 million in matching grants through the OSCIM Program and $4.1 million in TAP grants to school districts.

In the 2019 round, 66 school districts were awarded 122 TAP grants totaling $2,925,000.

Prairie City School District

Prairie City School District received all four TAP grants.

The $2.5 million seismic grant, received after a previous assessment, will pay for upgrades to the cafeteria and gym. That work will begin in June of 2020.

Superintendent/Principal Casey Hallgarth said the TAP grants will help them implement a maintenance program.

He said areas of focus for recent TAP awards include “the Bates building, the roofs to all of our buildings, exterior and interior conditions of all buildings and developing a maintenance plan for our district to address the issues of our 100-plus-year-old building.”

“These grants give us the opportunities to have professionals come in and develop a sound plan and for us to budget for the near future and the long term,” he said, adding the long-range plans will include engagement with the community to determine how to best meet educational goals for the next 20 years.

Hallgarth said the Bates building could provide an all-day daycare, carpentry classes, a dormitory or an all-day preschool down the road.

With upgrades, the students and staff could have reliable classrooms that don’t leak and are energy efficient, keeping cool on hot days and warm on cold days, he said.

“It is amazing what a controlled climate in the classroom can produce against a classroom that is too hot or cold or has leaks,” he said. “It also offers the students and staff a safe environment.”

He added, “At Prairie City, we are committed to the safety and efficiency of our classrooms, and we want to get this started here as soon as we can.”

Stacie Holmstrom, who is deputy clerk/business manager for Grant Education Service District and Monument and Prairie City school districts, said the requests for proposals for the projects for Monument and Prairie City, which she’ll be writing, will be sent out by June 1, and there is a list of approved architecture firms to complete the work.

The assessments will take place during the next school year, which starts July 1.

After receiving their assessment plans, schools can apply for grants through the OSCIM Program for a matching grant.

“Schools will have to determine what they can do,” Holmstrom said.

Grant School District 3

Grant School District 3 received a $20,000 facilities assessment grant, a $25,000 seismic grant and a long-range facility plan grant.

All the buildings in the district will be evaluated, including Seneca School and the district offices, Superintendent Bret Uptmor said.

“The seismic TAP grant will assess our buildings for future seismic projects with the buildings that were not retrofitted with any of the previous grants,” he said.

The district previously received a grant totaling $1,235,940 for seismic work through former Superintendent Curt Shelley, who moved after the 2017-18 school year.

The grant was for both Humbolt Elementary School and Grant Union Junior-Senior High School.

Work outlined for Humbolt with that grant was completed last summer, and upgrades to Grant Union will begin May 13 with a short break during graduation week.

A new roof was added to the elementary school’s cafeteria.

“Top to bottom, everything is tied together” with reinforcements in the ceiling, walls and flooring, Uptmor said.

Walls were also reinforced in classrooms, and rock walls outside the school office were taken out. Since that removed seating, a couple benches were added in place.

Five steel, U-shaped beams tie classrooms to the gym near the breezeway between the buildings.

Uptmor said the facility assessment TAP grant can be used to assess the current physical condition of the facilities, determine the level of deficiencies and provide a rough estimate for repair costs.

“The long-range facility plan and facilities assessment grant provide information to the Grant School District Board of Directors (including) direction and planning for the future of our facilities,” he said.

Dayville School District

Dayville School District received a $25,000 seismic assessment grant.

Last year, the school was awarded assessment grants for facilities and long-range planning, totaling $45,000, said Superintendent/Principal Kathryn Hedrick.

“We used that money to develop plans for repairs and upgrades and led the board to go to the voters ... for a bond proposal,” she said.

She said, with the seismic assessment grant, they will “have a structural engineer study the gym, the elementary, and the main high school building through the seismic lens.”

She said the school board will choose the engineering firm for that assessment at their meeting in May.

Angel Carpenter is a reporter for the Blue Mountain Eagle. She can be contacted at angel@bmeagle.com or 541-575-0710.

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