Seaside School’s race to safety

U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden honored Seaside School District Superintendent Doug Dougherty earlier this year. Dougherty will work on a bond measure on November's ballot to build a new K-12 campus out of the tsunami inundation zone.

SEASIDE — When U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden paid a visit to Seaside last month, his goal was to help the school district move schools in the tsunami inundation zone to safety.

That will require passage of a new bond, three years after a $128.8 million plan failed with voters.

State and federal assistance will be critical to its passage, Seaside School District Superintendent Doug Dougherty said Monday.

“One of the pieces we heard over and over again was our community wanted to have some type of help from the state and federal government to offset local costs,” he said.

Dougherty and the school board intend to put the bond on the November ballot to pay for the relocation of Seaside High School, Gearhart Elementary School and Broadway Middle School. “What we’re looking at is a school that will eventually be expanded in one direction or another, then build another elementary school or middle school up the hill to the east,” Dougherty said. “We’re still discussing plans and components.”

As Dougherty and officials seek funds from state and federal sources, they’ll also ask the community to assess local enthusiasm.

A 2013 poll was conducted by telephone, Dougherty said, but components of this year’s polling have yet to be determined.

Feedback could determine the scope of the bond, he said.

Dougherty said “there is no specific plan as yet,” but the most important goal, discussed in a board subcommittee, is to get schools out of the tsunami zone.

Along with a plea for federal support, Dougherty shared preliminary plans to relocate at-risk schools.

The district intends to develop property east of Seaside Heights Elementary School owned by Weyerhaeuser, the same site proposed in 2013.

“We have had many geo-techs evaluating that hillside,” Dougherty said. “They strongly believe that is the very best piece of property to relocate the school district.”

No new roads would need to be built, he said.

A major tsunami wave driven by a megathrust quake could reach 90 to 120 feet. Elevation at the proposed site rises from 80 feet at the bottom edge to several hundred feet.

The property would need to be purchased and placed within the urban growth boundary, Dougherty said.

Dougherty said the district is still in process of negotiating with Weyerhaeuser for the land and a purchase price has yet to be determined.

“I signed a nondisclosure agreement so I can’t say where we are in the process,” Dougherty added.

If the bond is approved by voters in November, Dougherty estimates it will take four years to move all students to safety.

The district has not determined the move would be phased in or done all at once. “It will likely take time to move kids from each school,” Dougherty said.

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