Schools leading the way
The citizens of Portland voted overwhelmingly to pass a bond measure that upgrades a number of Portland schools. It pays for some basic seismic upgrades on a 26 schools and completely modernizes three high schools and one grade school. It is a first step to the modernization of all Portland’s schools, which at the end will be safer, will meet the education needs of today, and will cost less money to operate and maintain. The energy savings alone will help make these schools more sustainable. The school district has also balanced out the safety and energy needs with maintaining the historic fabric that makes many of these schools beloved landmarks.
Out at the coast, the Seaside School District is embarking on a program to rebuild all of the schools to meet the highest seismic standards to insure they will not only survive an earthquake, but be fully available to help shelter those in need. They will be relocating the four schools in the tsunami inundation zone on higher ground at a common site near the existing Seaside Heights Elementary School. This site is outside of the urban growth boundary and their discussion with the Department of Land Conservation and Development has led to rethinking how communities can and should respond to Cascadia earthquake and tsunami that will help all coastal communities.
What is remarkable is that both school districts are taking new approaches that tie concerns of safety, sustainability, resiliency, education and community together. They are not the easy routes, but rather pragmatic solutions that look to the long term solutions. In both, the upfront costs are higher, but the benefits all along the way make sense.
These approaches are applicable to not only other school districts, but communities, institutions, and businesses alike. It is also firmly in the Oregon tradition of creating pragmatic, innovative solutions to problems that arise.