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Major Bend HS upgrade proceeds with demolition as engineers investigate auditorium wall damage

Bend Senior High School auditorium roof damage
Bend-La Pine Schools
Aerial view of Bend High auditorium roof. West wall, which shows signs of outward movement (bowing) and cracking, is along the right side. The stretching of the waterproof membrane on the roof also indicates pulling to the right.

(Update: adding video, comment from project manager, spokesman for Bend-La Pine Schools)

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) – A leak in a fire sprinkler system for the Bend High School auditorium led to discovery of a damaged exterior wall, prompting restricted access to the area in order to evaluate the structural integrity of that part of the building, Bend-La Pine School officials said earlier this week.

Meanwhile, a major renovation project at the school is proceeding, with demolition work underway after last month's groundbreaking ceremony.

Construction crews have been preparing the interior of buildings for demolition, removing furniture, lockers and asbestos. Now crews are kicking off the main phase of demolition, having already removed classrooms in the C-Wing.

"There's a lot of utility severance that you need to worry about, in terms of the fire alarms, sprinklers, plumbing," said Mike Condon, the project manager for Bend-La Pine Schools. "You just need to make sure that when you sever those, that it's not affecting the existing building. We want to keep all those systems active in that main building."

Two whole wings and a portion of another are involved in Bend High's partial demolition. After the demo and removal of materials, the crews will get into rock hammering and utility work.

Condon said they are "putting in dry wells and trying to get as much of that loud, disturbing noise done in the summer before students get back in the fall."

Crews anticipate receiving city permits to "go vertical," which means starting to put up walls in August.  

"You're not going to see anything real obvious in terms of vertical until probably this winter, maybe even in the spring, because foundation work and utilities is a lot involved with that. It takes some time," Condon said.

Few big projects happen without at least minor bumps in the road, like the 75-year-old auditorium. There also was a leak in its fire suppression system in early May that caused some damage, but the more recent leak has caused concerning structural issues.

Bend-La Pine Schools Director of Communications Scott Maben said, "We noticed there was some detachment or movement in an exterior wall, the west-facing wall, bowing outward, and some cracking in that wall as well."

The auditorium is not part of the current demolition project. But because of the issues, the district has blocked anyone but structural engineers from entering it. They are considering whether the sprinkler system failed and caused the leak or whether a problem with the building lead to the leak. The district estimates thousands of gallons of water poured into the auditorium.

"It was enough to pool down on the lower level of the auditorium, and even in a basement area below that, so there's definitely a need for clean up with both of these incidents," Maben said. "We're really just at that stage where we need to learn more before we know what steps we need to take from here on out." 

District officials emphasized the sprinkler leak in the auditorium was not related in any way to the construction project. In other words, the demolition work did not cause the leak in the sprinkler system. 

The district does have plans to eventually remodel the auditorium, in another phase of construction, but they may have to adjust the timeline.

Here's Wednesday's statement from the school district:

“Out of an abundance of caution, we have closed off this part of the Bend High campus as we evaluate the condition of the auditorium structure,” said Paul Dean, Chief Operations Officer for the school district. “We have caution tape and fencing around the outside of the auditorium, and have closed off adjacent interior spaces, including the front entrance, commons, administrative offices, production kitchen and four modular classrooms west of the auditorium.”

The damage was detected Tuesday, when a subcontractor working on site responded to a leak in the auditorium’s fire sprinkler system. A previous sprinkler system leak prompted a temporary closure of the auditorium in late May and early June to allow for repairs. At this time, the district has not determined if the water leaks are related to the structural issue.

The Bend High auditorium, constructed in 1955, is scheduled to be renovated as part of the four-year modernization and expansion of the school. The auditorium renovation is planned for Phase 3 beginning in 2026.

“Right now, our priority is to isolate the auditorium area until we can have structural engineers determine the extent of this issue and advise us on a safe course of action,” said Doug Pigman, Executive Director of Facilities.

For the modernization project, demolition work is proceeding as scheduled for the first phase of construction. A contractor will begin dismantling a classroom wing on Friday to prepare the site for a new classroom building, main entrance and commons.

The auditorium is not in the vicinity of the construction work, and the damage does not appear to be related.

Maben shared an aerial photo of the roof and signs of damage on Thursday, along with a brief update.

"The water leaks were significant enough to cause some interior damage to ceiling tiles and flooring," he said. "It’s possible that we had water damage that also was a contributing factor to the structure being compromised, but we won’t have a clear picture of what caused this, and what the remedy is, until we complete the engineering inspections and analysis."

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Matthew Draxton

Matthew Draxton is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Matthew here.


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