Jeremy C. Ruark, Pilot Staff Writer

A $1.5-million earthquake safety renovation of Brookings-Harbor High School is on track and on budget, according to the school district’s facilities and maintenance director, Jess Beaman.

The project began in June, following the last day of school, and Beaman said construction is scheduled to be completed by Aug. 19.

What’s being done

Throughout the high school, crews are opening up the rooms and hallways and improving structural connections, tying the floors, the walls and the ceilings to the foundation of the section of the building constructed in 1954.

“(By) just tying the diaphragm all together, when it starts moving and shaking everything stays together and the kids will be safe,” Beamon said. “It also protects ways to get out of the building.

“We are tying and anchoring the brickwork around the entrances and exits, so that way the kids are able to get out of the building following an earthquake.”

One of the main challenges of the project, according to Beaman, was retrofitting the school gymnasium, because it is so large and did not have a concrete slab.

“So we had to get underneath, dig a little bit, and put in new foundations,” he said.

Beaman said that over the years, the earthquake renovations are a key to the safety of the students and high school staff.

“If we did not do this earthquake project,” he said, “and if there is seismic activity, the building would come down a lot quicker than we would have time to get people out of the building. It would collapse. So by us getting into the school for this project, we can see what needs to be fixed, get it done correctly, and put it all back together to make it safe of the kids and the staff.”

The earthquake safety project will do more than shore up the schools, district officials said, It also allows the buildings to be used as emergency shelters for the community in case of any disaster, including earthquakes, tsunamis, fires or severe storms.

Additional benefits of the retrofittings include structural improvements such as siding, roofs, paint and adding energy efficiencies.

What’s next

Beaman said that once additional grant money can be secured, additional earthquake safety work is expected to be done for the high school’s science and library areas plus the auditorium, which were built in the ‘70s.

Design and strategic planning for earthquake renovations for the middle school gym were to begin this summer, with construction tentatively planned for the summer of 2020. Earthquake renovations have been done at the elementary school as well.

The earthquake safety project is funded through Business Oregon’s Infrastructure Finance Authority.

“Economic development starts with strong infrastructure and thriving community assets,” Business Oregon Director Chris Harder said. “This program helps with both, while ensuring that Oregon communities have safe buildings as we prepare for a seismic disaster.”

The Seismic Rehabilitation Grant Program is a State of Oregon competitive grant program. The school district has hired Ausland Group, a consulting, engineering and construction firm based in Grants Pass, as contractor for the high school earthquake safety project.