Seismic rehab: Grants will allow NSSD to upgrade two schools, more needed

June, 2017 Posted in Community

By Mary Owen

The North Santiam School District was recently awarded two grants from Oregon’s Seismic Rehabilitation Grant program.

“The grants will be used to upgrade the manufacturing wing at Stayton High School and the brick main building at Sublimity Middle School,” said Andy Gardner, NSSD superintendent. “Both buildings were built long ago, and do not meet seismic codes. We now have a far better understanding about the Cascade Subduction Zone and the frequency of earthquakes, and this creates urgency to make our buildings as safe as possible.”

Gardner said both buildings are in need of strengthening of walls as well as stronger connections to the roof structures.

“Sublimity Middle School is a brick structure that was built in the 1940s,” he said. “These tall brick walls represent a potential for collapse in a serious earthquake.”

The district plans to work on both projects in the summer of 2018, Gardner said.

“The late timeline of the awards, and the need for the work to occur in the summer months when school is out, necessitate the projects occurring next summer,” he said.

Sublimity Middle School received $1.5 million for upgrades, and Stayton High School, $936,000.

Other district buildings due seismic upgrading include the main gym at Stayton High School, what Gardner calls “a priority” along with Stayton and Sublimity elementary schools.

To prepare students for the possibility of “the big one,” all NSSD schools conduct earthquake drills each year with students, Gardner said.

“Schools, particularly older buildings, may not be viable gathering points after a severe earthquake,” he added. “The seismic grants will bring buildings to life-safety standard, which does not guarantee they will be useable after the event. There is a great deal of planning to be done to prepare for a severe earthquake.”

The Big One

According to the Oregon Office of Emergency Management,
there is a 40 percent chance of a 9.0+ magnitude earthquake
striking the Cascadia Subduction Zone within the next
50 years. The last time a “megathrust” quake struck inside
the Subduction Zone was approximately 1700 A.D.

Seismic rehabilitation grants were distributed to 100 schools and 47 emergency facilities, totaling $153.6 million in state grant funds.

“Ensuring every community in the state, particularly in rural regions, has safe community gathering places and emergency response infrastructure will be key to Oregon’s recovery from a significant seismic event,” Gov. Kate Brown said. “While this may seem like a daunting task, we’re making steady progress, through a concerted and coordinated effort by communities, individuals, businesses, and as a state, toward building a more resilient Oregon.”

State Sen. Ted Ferrioli (R-Dist.30) said communities need to prepare by making sure schools have been retrofitted so as not to “pancake” during a large quake.

“These buildings must survive, not only to protect children, but so they’ll be available as emergency operations centers, field hospitals, rendezvous points for families, and places where community response can be coordinated,” Ferrioli said. “Then we must also turn our attention to police stations, fire halls and ambulance centers from which first responders are dispatched.”

For more information, contact NSSD at 503-769-6924.

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