The Register-Guard by Susan Palmer
Published: March 30
Eugene 4J STEM Building Grand Opening3:30-5:30 pm
Opening Ceremony - Churchill Auditorium
Light Snacks - following the Ceremony in the new STEM Facility
There was a moment in January when Guy Shadwick looked at the construction timeline for remodeling the old industrial arts building at Churchill High School and just shook his head. The district wanted the new science labs and studios done by early April, and it’s the kind of job that would, under normal circumstances, take six months, he said.
Shadwick, who works for Albany-based Baldwin General Contracting, said the company has many school and university projects under its belt, including many with an accelerated schedule.Still, it gave him pause: “I said, ‘Wow. How are we going to get it done?’?”
In fact, workers have been on the job for 66 days straight, working 10-hour days to convert the former auto and wood shop into design studios, project construction areas, storage, demonstration and testing areas for Churchill’s new focus on science, technology, engineering and math — STEM in the education vernacular.
The Eugene School District received a $425,000 grant last year from the state’s Career and Technical Education Revitalization Grant Fund to create the ambitious new STEM program, essentially a regional hub at Churchill, with local engineering and science firms providing mentoring and training opportunities for students.
“I don’t believe that Guy, his second in command or our project manager, Bruce Foster, have had a day off since January, including weekends,” Jon Lauch, the district’s facilities manager, said in an e-mail.
“Despite the fact that we were unusually fortunate with better than normal winter weather, it has taken working seven days a week to get the project to this point.”
The total cost so far is $1.8 million, but more outside work remains to be done. The school board allocated $2.5 million last year for it, Lauch said.
The money came from bond funds set aside for use on school consolidation and reconfiguration.
Most recently the building had been used for one of the district’s alternative high school programs, which moved last year to be closer to Lane Community College.
Remodeling the 11,000-square-foot space included the addition of 1,696 square feet of classrooms and restrooms.
As a stand-alone building, it also had no direct access to the high school. But this weekend, workers will pour a cement sidewalk and add a steel canopy that will shelter students coming and going from the high school.
Considering the timeline, the project has gone fairly smoothly, Shadwick said, but as with any renovation, there were some surprises.
For example, the remodel called for moving interior sheer walls, the kind that keep the building from moving side-to-side in an earthquake. But when workers cut through the concrete floor to put in the footings to support the walls, they found asphalt, something the old building records did not reveal, said Mark Young, an architect with Rowell Brokaw, the local firm that designed the new space.
“We still don’t understand why the asphalt was there,” Young said. What it meant was more concrete floor removal so the asphalt could be dug out and new foundations put in place.
Shadwick gave credit to subcontractors often facing the challenge of multiple projects moving forward at the same time. Think carpenters, plumbers, electricians and drywall installers converging and having to work around each other.
Young said the new STEM studios and classrooms are the first of their kind in the district and possibly in the state. Rowell Brokaw looked at STEM classroom designs outside Oregon and brought the information to Eugene educators who tailored it to their needs.
“Because it’s new for (Eugene), we tried to create large flexible spaces that students will want to be in.” Young said.
Those familiar with the old building most likely will notice the many windows that add daylight.
There will also be solar panels helping provide some of the electricity for the building as well as learning opportunities for students, Young said.
While crews finished up electrical trim, cleaned windows, polished floors and prepared to pour cement, Shadwick’s furrowed brow was easing and he had a smile on his face.
City inspectors gave the project a certificate of temporary occupancy that will allow teachers in the building on Monday and students in the building on Tuesday.
“I hope they think we tore down the entire building down and rebuilt it,” Shadwick said. “I want them to feel good when they’re in here.”
Besides the STEM programs, the building will also house the Rachel Carson Program, which focuses on environmental science, Principal Kim Finch said.
“Our engineering program will have the capacity to fully implant a robotics program, expand our principles of engineering courses, and we can now look to future engineering courses in architecture and green building design, as well as begin to teach manufacturing with 3D printing,” she said.
The technology will allow videoconferencing with engineers and environmental scientists worldwide, helping help students move in the direction of real-world problem solving and innovation, she said.
The district plans an open house on May 9.