Expand search form

Bond plans – Central Howell, Pratum face water inundation, air quality woes

Editor’s note: Over the next several issues Our Town will present a school-by-school review of the facility challenges at each building covered by the Silver Falls School District bond proposal on the Nov. 7 ballot. 

By Stephen Floyd

Central Howell and Pratum schools are old enough to predate the Silver Falls School District (SFSD) itself.

Both have roots in pioneer schoolrooms that met in log cabins. The current schools were constructed in the 1920s.

The nearly century-old buildings have retained their character, even as new features were added over the decades such as gyms and offices. But both schools are showing their age. 

Over the last several months the SFSD Bond Advisory Committee and district officials – following a series of school-by-school community listening sessions – constructed a plan to address critical facility challenges to student safety and well-being.

After reviewing the proposal, the SFSD board decided to put the $138 million bond measure necessary to carry out those plans before the voters on the Nov. 7 ballot. 

The bond addresses repairs and renovations at 10 district-owned schools, and replaces Silverton Middle School. 

For property owners within the district, the estimated cost per thousand tax increase over the current rate is $1.60 per $1,000 in assessed value.  

The plan calls for Central Howell to receive nearly $5.8 million in upgrades. Pratum would receive almost $4.1 million.

Central Howell

When entering Central Howell, you pass through the newest part of the building, the main office constructed in 1987. Just a few steps more and you’re standing in a 95-year-old schoolhouse that has hosted students from the Great Depression to the dawn of Chat GPT.

This oldest section of Central Howell was built in 1923, then burned down in 1928. The now-familiar main building was constructed in its place the same year.

New classrooms were added in the 1950s and 1970s, while existing rooms were modernized. These renovations led to one of the major facilities problems now facing Central Howell: floor tiles contaminated with asbestos.

A layer of wax sealant is used to protect students from exposure, but this sealant can be worn away by moving chairs and desks and needs to be reapplied regularly. One of the bond-funded projects for schools like Central Howell is new flooring that does not contain asbestos, or even require waxing.

Another priority is new roofing, particularly at the gym, where the roof was not designed to drain water. Also on the list is a new HVAC system to both heat and cool students and to allow better ventilation.

Air flow became a problem in the basement where teachers offices and music instruction were held. Regular water inundation lead to mold growing on boxes in a storage area. 

The basement had to be vacated in April while the district cleaned the rooms. The mold has been removed and the basement repainted, and efforts are under way to create additional vents. 

Addressing the roofing and HVAC issues should prevent such emergency situations, according to district officials.


Pratum School has gone through many iterations, first as a log cabin on a local farm in the 1860s, followed by a two-room schoolhouse at the site of the former Pratum Methodist Church. The first modern school was built down the road from its current location in 1903 and expanded from one room to two in 1908.

The current building on Sunnyview Road NE was constructed in 1928 and remained a two-room schoolhouse through the 1950s, accommodating as many as 60 students at a time. The school now has three teachers and 65 students. Office space, a multi-use room and a gymnasium were added over the years.

Like Central Howell, the basement of Pratum is often used for instruction and activities. It also has water inundation problems during the winter. 

Compunding that problem, Pratum’s basement has exposed utilities like fuse boxes and electrical terminals. Air ducts are literally coming apart at the seams.

Neither Pratum’s basement nor its bathrooms are ADA accessible, though many student activities are held here. In fact, the only ADA-compliant restrooms are in the recently-renovated gym. Accessibility is one of the district’s major priorities for Pratum.

Outside, Pratum boasts a wide playground complete with a fenced-in yard and well-kept play structures. However, on rainy or hot days there is very little covered space for children to play safely. Students often huddle beneath the covered walkway between the main school building and gym, according to site  supervisors.

The bond would help make the basement, playground and other areas safer and more accessible for students and staff, as well as parents and community members who take part in school programs.

Principal’s perspective

Taryn Wold, who recently became principal of both Central Howell and Pratum, told Our Town student well-being is central to learning and the buildings where learning takes place have a direct impact.

“For our families and our students to walk in and not feel [safe], or for our staff to not walk in and feel safe in the buildings, I think that’s a big problem,” said Wold. “… If our buildings are crumbling around us, that’s a big problem.”

Wold said the families that grew up around these schools are invested in in their communities, and the schools hope to do their part to keep those communities strong.

During listening sessions earlier this year, some residents asked why Central Howell, Pratum and Evergreen schools are not simply torn down and combined into a new building. 

District representatives said the schools are built from sturdy materials and could last another generation if they are properly maintained. Wold echoed this feeling.

“We want our schools to be around for a very long time,” she said.

Previous Article

Salmon Watch – Volunteers, school kids, public visit during spawning season

Next Article

Cleanup day set for Mt. Angel

You might be interested in …

Step-by-step: Grant moves Habitat project forward

By James Day A Silverton Habitat for Humanity project has received a $30,000 grant from the Oregon Community Foundation (OCF).  The award was part of $8.7 million in grants to 371 nonprofits that the foundation announced last month. North Willamette Valley Habitat For Humanity will use the funds to help hire a project manager for the planned 18-unit project on […]