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Vernonia Breaks (Higher) Ground For New School

Vernonia schools were ravaged three years ago by severe flooding. As Simon Boas reports, Governor Ted Kulongoski and civic leaders broke ground Thursday for a new K-12 school and community center.

 Governor Ted Kulongoski helped break ground with a backhoe for Vernonia’s new school.

Simon Boas / OPB

Massive floods in 1996 and 2007 filled the classrooms and halls in Vernonia’s schools with sewage-contaminated water twice in eleven years.

Since then the area’s seven hundred students have been learning mostly in temporary classrooms. And the governor announced that the Oregon Department of Transportation will invest $3.8 million to improve roads around the new school zone.

The entire project will cost ten times that amount and is funded by a combination of public and private investments and donations.

Simon Boas / OPB

The new school is being built above the flood plain on the fields where rescue teams landed helicopters during the 2007 floods.

At an assembly inside the current school building Superintendent Kenneth Cox showed students artist’s renderings of what the new school will look like.

Kenneth Cox: “The library, this is what we thought it was going to look like a year ago, today, it looks more like this.”

Simon Boas / OPB

Columbia County Commissioner Tony Hyde says the kids have faced a lot of adversity over the past decade, like being bused over the mountain to go to school in Scappoose just six days after the 2007 flood.

Tony Hyde: “You’re going to school in trailers, there’re no lockers, there’re no hallways, you’re going in the rain between classes. You have to share very scant facilities right now. I think it’s going to build character for these kids.”

The new school should be completed in two years.

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