A seismic upgrade for one Roseburg elementary school is nearing completion while work has begun on another school in the district, thanks to grants from the state of Oregon to improve school buildings that have been identified as high risk in a major earthquake.

The seismic upgrade at Green Elementary, which is being performed by Vitus Construction from Gold Hill, started with preliminary work in April, but the main construction project was completed during the summer vacation while students were out of the building.

Green was the first elementary school in the district school to be targeted for upgrades, after it was determined to be “very high risk” by the Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries.

The agency conducted a statewide seismic needs assessment of critical facilities, that included public schools and community college buildings.

With the exception of two modular classrooms, the entire Green school campus got an upgrade.

Officials expect the finish work to take several more weeks, but that work can be completed while the students are in class.

“The main seismic upgrades have all taken place, and we have students back in their chairs, and we started school right on time,” said Tracy Grauf, physical plant manager for the Roseburg School District.

Grauf said it’s mostly just painting and finishing work that is left to be done at Green.

The construction, he said, has greatly strengthened the school buildings, which were in pretty bad shape. Prior to the upgrade, the state’s assessment indicated that there was a good chance that the buildings on campus would have collapsed completely in an earthquake, but now they should be able to withstand a much bigger jolt, he said.

“If we were to have a shake now, we might have a few things fall in, but the roof is not going to collapse,” he said. “With the work that’s been done, it should stay standing, which will allow the building to be evacuated”

The Roseburg School District was awarded state grants of $1.5 million each for Green, Fullerton IV and Hucrest. The district also got a $900,000 grant for improvements to Melrose Elementary School.

Preliminary work started last week on a section of Fullerton IV Elementary, including six classrooms, the main office and the gymnasium. But the major construction won’t happen until the students go on the December holiday vacation.

“They’ll finish any work that needs to take place inside the classrooms, potentially over Christmas break, depending on how invasive it is, and then some over spring break, but it could spill into the summer,” Grauf said.

Principals at Green and Fullerton IV said crews have been really good to work with.

“We’re just rolling with it,” said Fullerton IV Principal Katrina Hanson on Monday.

He said all of the schools that were awarded seismic grants must have upgrades completed by the end of next summer so funding does not run out. Those include Melrose and Hucrest schools.

The district has also been able to modernize some of the worn-down buildings during construction for seismic upgrades.

“As money allows, we try to give them a facelift and make them feel like more modern buildings instead of like a 1950s builidngs,” Grauf said.

The district is applying for funding for JoLane and Fremont Middle Schools, plus Eastwood Elementary School.

“If we were successful in receiving more grants, we would probably be into the summer of 2020, and potentially into 2021 to complete the next five, if we get all five grants,” Grauf said.

After getting the results of the 2007 assessment, the Roseburg School District had an engineering firm perform a structural evaluation of its schools in 2008. Based on that assessment, the district decided to upgrade the schools as the grants became available from the state.

Since the visual assessment was completed, the Roseburg High School gymnasium has been upgraded and other buildings that were built before 1972 are targeted to be upgraded when money becomes available.

Reporter Dan Bain can be reached at 541-957-4221 or e-mail at dbain@nrtoday.com.

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Dan Bain is the health reporter for The News-Review. He previously worked at KPIC and 541 Radio.

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