Vernonia stakes future on new school

| Print |  Email
Articles - October 2011
Thursday, September 22, 2011

 

1011_Vernonia_03
Above: The 2007 flood filled Washington Grade School's basement with 39 inches of water. 
Below: Lockers were painted on the wall outside the gym after the high school was torn down. Students won't park in the vacant lot where their high school used to be.
// Photos by Justin Tunis
1011_Vernonia_05
1011_Vernonia_06










“We are going to make the school the catalyst for our economic change forever more,” declared Tony Hyde, a Columbia County Commissioner, former logger and past mayor of Vernonia.

It is inarguable that this beauty of a school, with room for 1,000 students and abundant space for community use, will be far better than the flood-damaged, ragtag buildings it replaces. Every time it rains, anxious grade-schoolers ask if it will flood again. Since the flood, middle and high school students have been in temporary modular classrooms. “Three blocks from the band room to the classrooms with no cover,” says Cox. The class of 2012 will graduate next summer having never had a high school, much less simple things like lockers, save those painted on the walls outside the gym in memoriam. Since 2007, Vernonia’s population has dropped to 2,155, and the number of students has fallen from 697 two months before the flood to 590 this past June.

What is arguable is how much a school can jump-start the recovery of a town that faces formidable problems such as few local jobs, broken infrastructure and costly flood recovery. But to live in rural Oregon today takes equal parts hope, resiliency and sometimes a crazy notion of what is possible, so on this day in late June it was time to celebrate the potential.

Mike Pihl watched the walls come up. Pihl, who owns a logging company and sits on the city’s economic development committee, has four children in Vernonia schools. More famously, the 6-foot-4 Pihl has been on the History Channel’s reality show Ax Men for five seasons.

“If it wasn’t for this,” he observed, “you might as well wipe Vernonia off the map.”



 

More Articles

Loose Talk

July/August 2015
Friday, July 10, 2015
BY AMY MILSHTEIN

When gossip crosses the line.


Read more...

Oregon needs a Grand Bargain energy plan

Linda Baker
Monday, June 22, 2015
0622-gastaxblogthumbBY LINDA BAKER

The Clean Fuels/gas tax trade off will go down in history as another disjointed, on-again off-again approach to city and state lawmaking.


Read more...

Preserving the Legacy

July/August 2015
Monday, July 13, 2015
BY KIM MOORE | PHOTOS BY JASON E. KAPLAN

A New York floral and gift business takes on the iconic Harry & David brand.


Read more...

Best Foot Forward

July/August 2015
Monday, July 13, 2015
BY CHRIS NOBLE

Whether you're stepping out to work or onto the track, Pacific Northwest shoe companies have you covered.


Read more...

Fueling Up for the Climb

July/August 2015
Friday, July 10, 2015
BY GREGG MORRIS

Rita Hansen aims to scale natural gas vehicle innovation.


Read more...

Urban renewer

Linda Baker
Wednesday, June 24, 2015
UnknownBY LINDA BAKER   

One year after he was appointed chair of the Portland Development Commission, Tom Kelly talks about PDC's longevity, Neil Kelly's comeback and his new role as Portlandia's landlord.


Read more...

Reader Input: Road Work

March 2015
Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Oregon's roads are crumbling, and revenues from state and local gas taxes are not sufficient to pay for improvements. We asked readers if the private sector should help fund transportation maintenance and repairs. Research partner CFM Strategic Communications conducted the poll of 366 readers in February.

0315 input01 620px

 

Reader comments:

"I feel private enterprises are capable of operating at a higher efficiency than state government."

"This has been used in Oregon since the mid-1800s. It is not a new financing method. This form of financing may help Oregon close its infrastructure deficit by leveraging funds."


Read more...
Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02
SPONSORED LINKS