New Crestline rises in fire's wake

Cause of blaze that destroyed elementary school in February still under investigation

By Susan Parrish, Columbian education reporter


photoClick to enlarge


New Crestline Elementary school

Site of original school, 13003 S.E. Seventh St.

Opening in September.

60,656 square feet, plus 3,136 square feet in two portable classrooms. Two-story design similar to Endeavour Elementary School.

Original Crestline

Opened Aug. 29, 1973.

43,995 square feet, plus 7,840 square feet in portables. Total space including portables: 51,835 square feet. One-story design similar to Riverview Elementary School.

Destroyed by three-alarm fire Feb. 3, 2013.

First catastrophic loss of a school in Evergreen Public Schools’ 67-year history.

500 students and about 50 staff members were displaced.

Temporary Crestline

2013-2014 school year.

Hewlett-Packard/SEH America building, 18110 S.E. 34th St.

68,645 square feet.

Cost of tenant improvements: About $16 per square foot.

All costs covered by insurance.

As a new Crestline Elementary School rises, it's still unknown what caused the fire that destroyed the nearly 40-year-old building more than 10 months ago.

Fire Marshal Heidi Scarpelli is still awaiting results from the investigation of the three-alarm fire.

"Right now, we're in a holding status until we get results from the tests conducted back at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives lab," said Scarpelli.

She didn't venture a guess as to when the results would be available from the ATF Fire Research Laboratory in Beltsville, Md., the world's largest research lab dedicated to fire science investigations.

"It depends on what they have in the queue," she said.

Rebuilding process

On Sept. 3, Evergreen Public Schools broke ground on the new Crestline Elementary at the site where the original school had burned.

Last Friday morning, temperatures hovered just above freezing and the sky had been spitting rain, but construction crews were busy. Cory Zonich, project manager at Skanska, nodded toward scaffolding where masons were working. The flame of a propane heater was helping to dry out moisture on the masonry.

"Masons have to shut down if it's too cold or there's too much moisture," Zonich said.

The gym's concrete floor, poured a few days earlier, was covered in thermal blankets "to keep it from losing heat through the top and cracking," he said.

On the classroom wing, the concrete floor has been poured, and steel columns and beams already are in place, as is a metal deck overhead, where the second story will be.

"We're hoping to put the concrete floor on top of the metal deck in early January, if weather cooperates," Zonich said. "We plan to turn the finished school over to the district in July."

The new school will welcome students in fall 2014.

Temporary quarters

This school year, Crestline students and staff are together again under one roof at a temporary site on the former Hewlett-Packard campus on Southeast 34th Street, about four miles from the original school.

"We are happy to be all under one roof again," said Principal Bobbi Hite. "It's nice to have a sense of normalcy."

The building's extremely high ceilings are the only remnant from its former life in the high-tech industry. Classroom walls are 10 feet high and open at the top.

"Although the district worked with some acoustic experts to reduce the sound, there is a level of noise that we are getting used to," Hite said. "That's our biggest challenge: working with no ceilings and the noise level."

Paying it forward

Through the Evergreen school district's foundation, Crestline received donations of books, school supplies and cash sent from well-wishers in the region, the nation and even other countries.

Recently Crestline students and staff delivered school supplies to Eola Hills Charter School in Amity, Ore., which was destroyed by a fire Oct. 3.

"We're feeling very fortunate," Hite said. "It was nice to pay it forward."