North takes back seat in bond projects debate

When Medford School District officials asked voters for a $189 million bond issue in November 2006, North Medford High School was the poster school for the bond election.

Birds nest in holes in the rotting wood roofing, water floods the school grounds and the campus evokes a feeling of overall drabness, students and staff members said.

More than a year later with bond budget woes and debate about shelving some of the bond projects, South Medford High School and Jackson and Roosevelt elementary schools, North Medford and 14 other bond projects have been out of the spotlight.

But the $34 million remodel of North Medford serving about 1,900 pupils is moving forward, albeit at a smaller scale than first planned and in the shadow of an $82 million project to build a new South Medford.

"I get comments from people at North, 'We are getting nothing, and South is getting everything,' " said board member Larry Nicholson. "That is not at all what we're doing. We've had so much attention on South, Jackson and Roosevelt, we haven't really communicated all the good things happening at North."

Major work on the high school, a complex of 11 separate buildings built in 1967 on some 61 acres, will begin in February.

By the end of summer 2008, the school will have new siding, sidewalks, mansard roofing to replace the existing wood material, flooring, windows, skylights to add natural light to dark rooms and air conditioning and ventilation systems.

"Natural light is something research has shown helps students perform better," said North principal Patrick Royal. "All of the rooms will either have a window or a skylight."

Drainage will be added to prevent campus flooding, and the parking lot will be resurfaced.

Some painting will start as early as this week, during the school's winter break.

The following year, four new classrooms and labs will be added to the library. An Internet cafe will be added to either the library or the administrative office, which includes the career center.

The cafeteria will be remodeled to create a more inviting and open commons area by removing three classrooms that now bisect it and installing skylights.

"Right now, you can't see in the commons area," said Mark Cork of Seattle-based Mahlum Architects. "There is not much to draw you in. The skylights will allow you to see inside from the courtyard."

The administrative office also will be revamped, probably with a larger lobby.

"There is a desire to create a more welcoming entry to the campus," Cork said. "Right now, if you're new to the campus, it's very difficult to see where you go."

Before the bond election, plans for North Medford called for demolishing four buildings and constructing a centralized, two-story structure.

But higher-than-expected construction costs across the bond program prompted district officials to scale down the North Medford project from $50.5 million to $34.2 million.

But district officials said the school will look like new when remodeling is complete.

"People are going to feel a lot better when they start to see things happen (in February)," Royal said. "I think it's going to give this campus in two years a completely different feel."

Reach reporter Paris Achen at 541-776-4459 or

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