By Luke Hegdal
HERMISTON Roughly 23 members of the Hermiston community examined Armand Larive Middle School Thursday night during the first public forum held by district officials.
The tour, led by Facilities Manager Brian Romeike, covered a wide variety of issues that have come to the forefront as the result of two years work by the Long Range Planning Committee.
Armand Larive was built in 1936, and upgraded over the years with additions in the 1940s and 1960s and cosmetic renovation in the 1990s
Romeike pointed out that the original south wall has shifted on it's foundation and, as a result, the south side of the building is not level.
"This whole part of the building is shifting south," Romeike said.
After the tour, which also covered ventilation, heating, and makeshift classrooms, Hermiston Schools Superintendent Fred Maiocco led a brief slide show that outlined the conclusions that the Long Range Facilities Planning group have made.
The key issues, according to Maiocco, are student growth and outdated buildings.
"How many of you are driving an automobile that's pre-World War II?" Maiocco asked the crowd.
Maiocco also pointed out that 350 to 400 elementary students are housed in the district's modular buildings, as much as the recommended capacity for an entire elementary school.
The modulars are not a long-term solution, according to Maiocco, however.
"Our portable fleet is in excess of their expected life," Maiocco said.
Assistant Superintendent Wade Smith then explained the planning committee's recommended plan replacing four schools, and adding a fifth. The total cost for the project would be nearly $90 million.
According to Smith, that cost includes estimated inflation and other contingencies, as well as the rising cost of construction. Since 2001, the cost to build an elementary school has jumped from $109 per square foot to $210 per square foot. Community members asked questions about where students would be housed during the construction, and where the new schools would be located. According to school officials, a new Armand Larive would be built near Desert View Elementary on a 41-acre lot already owned by the district.
The current Armand Larive building could then be used to house students from another school, such as West Park, while it is demolished and rebuilt.
The community forum was the first in several similar events scheduled for Nov. 15 at Sunset Elementary, and Jan. 17 at West Park Elementary. Both events begin at 6:30 p.m.
The district will also conduct several surveys and has set up a Blue Ribbon Panel of 15 respected community members who will make a final recommendation next spring.
Luke Hegdal can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.