Price of remodeling South Salem High School jumps; artifacts from old Leslie saved

Workers install seismic upgrades to the boys’ locker room at South Salem High School as part of a major expansion and remodeling of the school. (Ron Cooper/Salem Reporter)

The cost to demolish the former Leslie Junior High School and expand South Salem High School has jumped by about $18 million from the original estimate.

The project designed to relieve overcrowding and to prepare for growing enrollment was expected to come in at $66 million. Now that figure has swelled to about $84 million, with the difference primarily going to pay for costly seismic upgrades.

Money placed in a contingency fund of the Salem-Keizer School District will cover those unexpected charges, said Karma Krause, the capital construction public engagement manager for the district.

Two years ago, voters approved a $619.7 million bond to improve all of the district’s schools. Since passage, the bond revenue has grown to $677.7 million through market premiums, earnings, grants and reimbursements so now even more projects can be undertaken, she said.

In 1954, South was built to serve about 1,800 students. With the expansion now underway, the school will be large enough for 2,200 students.

The project is adding 12 classrooms, two science labs and two expanded career and technical education spaces for culinary and sports medicine classes.

There will be a new auxiliary gym, space to support special education classes, expanded administration and support areas, new tennis courts and batting cages.

Other parts of the project include replacing some flooring, sealing the exterior of the building, replacing the elevator, installing new plumbing, putting on a new roof, expanding wireless capacity, improving the track’s infield and increasing building security.

A new state-of-the-art performing arts center will contain 906 seats plus 10 spaces for wheelchairs.

Howard Street will be widened to 15 feet from the center of the roadway to the south and will taper as it reaches Davidson Street to the east.

Speed bumps will be installed to reduce traffic speeds.

Work began at the school in April, and the target completion date is Sept. 30, 2021.

Anderson Shirley of Salem is the architect for the project.“They were selected through a request for proposal process a couple of years ago, and they have worked on many large school projects in the state,” Krause said. “They also are the architects for the bond project underway at McNary High School, and they are working on drawings for bond work at Sprague High School.”

Pence Construction of Salem demolished the old junior high school and took out the pool and will build the classroom additions and performing arts center, she said. The company also will construct the new gym and a parking lot.

Todd Construction of Portland is handling the interior renovations and seismic strengthening, science classroom renovations and security improvements at the front entry.

So far the most obvious change at the site is the demolition of Leslie school that opened in 1927.

Originally, the $88,000 structure was constructed in a “V” shape and had two stories plus a basement. The building was needed to help relieve crowding at Parrish Junior High School and McKinley Elementary School, which was serving both elementary and junior high students.

An auditorium and a gym were added to Leslie in 1936, reshaping the school into a “W”.

When the new Leslie Middle School was built in 1997 on Southeast Pringle Road, the old building became the home of the Howard Street Charter School until 2019.

The school district is well aware of the attachment the community has to Leslie so items from the school are being preserved and some offered to the public, Krause said.

Salvaged items will be considered for an educational display in the new wing to be constructed at South. They include exterior bricks, a theater seat, green blocks from the interior hallways, and a speaker from the original public address system.

She said unique features from the school that are large or in poor condition weren’t saved, including the cupolas and the original school sign.

However, images of such features may be captured in a display and a documentary video being created about the school.

The community is invited to participate in the video by submitting photos, stories and short remembrances of their time spent at the school or in the swimming pool. Offerings are due by Oct. 16.

For information about contributing, go to the district’s website: https://salkeiz.k12.or.us/leslie-bond/leslie memorial/.

The district also is working with Willamette Heritage Center to determine items suitable for its collection. So far, an old Borax soap dispenser, two locker doors and a building map have been earmarked for the museum.

Anyone wanting to get bricks or other recovered items from Leslie can contact the Saxon Success Fund, [email protected].

Rubble is all that’s left of the former Leslie Middle School, taken down to make room for expansions at South Salem High School (Ron Cooper/Salem Reporter)

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