Feedback on the Camas Ridge Community School’s proposed new building has not been kind so far, but staff, parents and community members have a last chance to make their voices heard this week: The Eugene 4J School District is seeking input from community members on the exterior of the elementary school’s building through Sunday, Dec. 12.
The school, located near the south end of Amazon Park, is being redesigned and rebuilt. The architecture team is Pivot Architecture with construction by Chambers Construction. Construction is scheduled to begin in 2022, with the opening in 2024. The rebuild is being funded by a 2018 bond that also funded rebuilds for Edison Elementary and North Eugene High School, both of which are currently under construction.
The district unveiled near-final designs in October and held an online survey requesting feedback then as well. In those comments, many compared it to an industrial building or warehouse and said it doesn’t fit into the neighborhood.
The main classroom areas are designed to be built to current earthquake safety standards for schools, but the cafeteria/gym is being built with extra precautions so it can be used as a shelter for the community in case of emergency, according to the district’s webpage on the rebuild.
Many comments pointed to a lack of natural light due to lack of windows, especially compared to the Edison rebuild.
Kerry Delf, 4J’s chief of staff, says the original designs were based on education requirements and feedback on prior buildings. But she says the district heard that feedback and the new designs have larger windows, as well as a warmer color palette. “Having windows and natural light and views to the outside are important,” she says. “And that also needs to be part of a balanced design.”
However, the changes aren’t enough for some. For instance, Allan Kluber, a neighbor of the school who says he’s been volunteering there for at least a decade, says the changes are “superficial” and akin to putting lipstick on a pig. “It’s still going to look like a warehouse,” he says.
Delf says that the district has met with and received feedback from the community more than usual and has been taking their advice into consideration. For instance, Delf says that they shifted some of the areas where they planned to build because neighbors were concerned about endangering the camas plant, the native purple flower for which the school is named. The district also shrank the size of the parking lot based on the feedback it received.
The survey asks community members to rank the original plan offered in October alongside three alternative exterior options, which feature some larger windows and different color schemes. At this point, the district is wrapping up the feedback period, Delf says, and it won’t be considering changes outside these options. “We need to move forward to be able to be at the school on schedule,” she says.
She adds that there are still many decisions that will need to be made before breaking ground next year.
Kluber says he wrote back that the district needed an option to say “none of the above,” and he says he hopes parents and other neighbors do the same. “If it were my plan, I would throw it out and start over,” he says.
The online survey is open through Sunday, Dec. 12, and is available at SurveyMonkey.com/r/R7GTYFY.