Medford school projects 'moving full speed ahead'

MEDFORD — Jackson and Roosevelt brick schoolhouses are one step closer to demolition, renovation and reconstruction after the city's Site Plan and Architectural Commission Friday approved building plans for the elementary schools.

The future of the schools was in doubt last year when the Medford School Board weighed whether to mothball the buildings or rebuild with bond funds after an engineering firm concluded the structures were at risk of collapse in an earthquake. Students were moved to other campuses in June 2007.

In January, the school board gave in to community pleas to rebuild and reopen the schools, allocating $12 million to each school out of a $189 million bond package voters approved in November 2006.

The estimated cost of each school is now at about $12.4 million, fueling worries that the school district will run out of money on other bond projects before the schools can be reconstructed.

"Shame on them (the school district) if they chop down all those big, old trees they have marked right now (at Roosevelt), and then leave us with an empty lot," said Roosevelt PTO member Marcia La Fond. "Let's hope they do the right thing."

Several trees on the Roosevelt lot are earmarked for cutting to make room for new construction. The neighborhood is distinguished by its broad tree canopy and renovated historic homes.

La Fond said she's heard concerns from her neighbors that the school district has placed Roosevelt and Jackson at the bottom of its priority list for 18 school bond projects and the reconstruction could be nixed at the last minute, should prices go up.

"That's not true," said School Board Chairman Larry Nicholson. "All these projects are moving full speed ahead. We are feeling comfortable that the costs are going to be very close to our estimates."

The school district plans to meet with its contractors July 2 to try to pare down the cost of the plan without cutting out important features such as the gymnasiums.

The oldest portions of the schools, built in 1911, and the gymnasiums, built in 1931, are set to be demolished in August after asbestos is removed from the premises in July.

A 43,000-square-foot, two-story building and a 4,900-square-foot gymnasium will replace the demolished structures at Roosevelt.

At Jackson, a 47,600-square-foot, two-story building and a 4,800-square-foot gymnasium will be constructed.

The libraries and classroom wings built in 1949 will be renovated at both schools.

Medford School District officials estimate the schools will reopen in January 2010.

Reach reporter Paris Achen at 541-776-4459 or

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