Engineering YHS for kids now, later

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Summary of the June 1 Yoncalla School Board work session to hear the peer review of the 2014 facilities audit

(June 3, 2015) — Our high school has options! Not only to repair its aging bones, but to rejuvenate and give it a new, dynamic life that can grow with our students, teachers and programs!

Last night in a public work session the current Yoncalla School Board and our incoming board members listened to a review of last year’s school facility audit and got a nice bit of new information: Not only is it possible to repair our Yoncalla High School and give it another 50-plus years of usable life, it might be doable in 15 months.

The peer review did come with some caveats. The review found that some of the cost estimates were low and can only be expected to increase as time goes by. But there’s some good news on that front too, as legislation to assist with grant and matching funds may be soon available to schools and other public agencies.

It’s time to roll up our sleeves and begin talking about our vision for our community and our school, and how we make that vision a reality. We’ve got a wealth of information with which to start.

We’ll be beginning a regular school district newsletter to keep our community, parents and school staff and teachers up-to-date on the latest developments in our district. We’ll include opportunities to get involved in the discussion and plan our future together.

We’ll try to summarize last night’s meeting here, but be sure to let us know if you have burning questions about the meeting, facility audit or the upcoming capital construction bond. (To see the full Facilities Audit Peer Review, visit our website To see the original facilities audit, visit

We requested this audit to make sure we get a comprehensive picture of our building problems, needs and possible solutions. “Just like with a doctor, we wanted a second opinion to see if we’re on the right track with the right medicine,” Yoncalla Superintendent Jan Zarate said.

Yoncalla School District hired consultant Francis C. Berg, an architect with many decades of experience in facility and seismic renovation (including many school buildings), to conduct the peer review. Monday night, Mr. Berg walked the board and meeting attendees through their review of the facilities audit made last year by Crow/Clay & Associates Inc.

Mr. Berg and his colleagues’ review found the overall assessment was that both the renovation and new building options from Crow/Clay were low (the report on our website at the link above for a side-by-side comparison of all costs). Mr. Berg also said that Crow/Clay & Associates renovation lifespan estimate of 15 to 20 years could be increased to 50 years or more with more strategic planning, renovation of existing facilities and some additions.

“You remodel for 50 years. Anything less than that is just less than that. You’re going to be chasing your tail,” Mr. Berg said. “If you’re going to renovate it should be like new.”

Mr. Berg guessed the price tag for this kind of “like new” renovation work is about $10.5 million. It should be noted that this figure is not a true estimate, but very rough guess figure based on Mr. Berg and his associates’ experience with schools.

That’s a big number for our small community. We are watching Salem as several pieces of legislation that could open up grants and matching funding work their way through the Ways and Means Committee.

If approved, Senate Bill 447 (see full bill text here, could offer Oregon school districts around $4 million in matching funding for construction costs. Join us in watching SB 447 A! Updates on this specific bill are at

Another state funding opportunity is the Seismic Rehabilitation Grant Program (see here for program information from Oregon Business’ Infrastructure Finance Authority. This program is specifically for public buildings that need seismic upgrades and this year offered up to $1.5 million grant to recipients. Yoncalla School District narrowly missed out on getting this funding during this grant cycle. We plan to apply for that grant again.

Strong feelings on these programs one way or another? Drop our local representatives a line. Senator Floyd Prozanski’s contact info is available here:, and our Representative Cedric Hayden has contact information listed here:

There will be an agenda item to discuss our facilities at the June 8, 2015, school board meeting. The meeting begins at 7 p.m. in the Yoncalla High School library. See you there!

Want to make sure you never miss an update? Drop us your email and we’ll make sure you get the news promptly, right in your inbox. Here are all the ways you can get ahold of us: by phone, (541) 849-2782, by email,, by mail, PO Box 568, Yoncalla, OR 97499. Or stop by and visit us! Our district office is located at the high school, 401 First St., Yoncalla.

Yoncalla School District

We proudly serve around 220 K-12 students in our district, as well as offering services to our young families through Early Works. Our community deals with a high poverty rate; however, students graduate from Yoncalla High School with some of the highest academic test scores and achievements in our county and state. We are consistent in striving for bigger and better things, allowing our small school stature work in our favor for more individualized learning and responsive instruction that moves all our community forward.