In our continued effort to improve student and staff safety, the Medford School District (MSD) is working tirelessly to seismically upgrade facilities. In 2016-2017, we worked closely with local engineers to develop a district wide seismic assessment to assist with prioritization and to focus resources appropriately. In 2019, we updated the district seismic assessment to further focus our efforts.
Oregon Revised Statute (ORS) 455.400 states, “subject to the availability of funding, all seismic rehabilitations or other actions to reduce seismic risk must be completed before January 1, 2032.” This is no small undertaking and requires a concerted effort and a comprehensive plan. Seismic upgrades take time and significant funding.
In terms of strategy, we can accomplish this task through new construction, in conjunction with on-going projects, and/or retrofit.
One tool available to help us fund these large-scale projects is the Seismic Rehabilitation Grant Program (SRGP). The SRGP is a competitive grant program that provides funding for the seismic rehabilitation of critical public buildings, particularly public schools and emergency services facilities. The Medford School District fronts the project cost which is then paid back in a timely manner by the State of Oregon Business Development Department—Infrastructure Finance Authority (IFA). In addition to keeping students and staff safe during a seismic event, the MSD desires to be a community resource during response and recovery efforts in the shape of having facilities that can be used for shelters, supply distribution, and/or command posts.
Two important terms in understanding seismic rehabilitation:
- Life Safety means that a building may be damaged beyond repair during an earthquake, but people will be able to safely exit the building.
- Immediate Occupancy means the building will likely weather the seismic event safely and remain available for emergency services as needed.
In addition to the extensive upgrades completed district wide during the last bond, we have been awarded SRGP funding for several sites over the last 7 years. We have completed work at Washington ($270,000) in 2011, Ruch ($1,477,100) in 2017, Griffin Creek ($1,498,160) and Howard ($1,498,690) in 2018. SRGP grants are not always large enough to upgrade a whole campus; however, this work allowed us to bring several buildings up to life safety standards and to bring the Ruch and Howard gyms up to immediate occupancy standards. We also completed SRGP funded work at Hoover ($1,498,345) and matched the grant funding with an additional $462,000 to bring the whole campus up to life safety standards and the gym and cafeteria building up to immediate occupancy standards in 2019. Using district funds to match the grant funding allowed the campus to be upgraded in its entirety with one mobilization and minimized the level of inconvenience to the school’s education process. The timeline for a project of this size and nature from design to completion of construction is ~18 months with the majority of the heavy construction occurring over the summer months.
We continue to apply for SRGP funding for additional sites and will continue to work toward accomplishing all of our life safety and immediate occupancy seismic goals in the years to come.