Nearly five years after voters approved a $482 million Portland Public Schools bond, the money is showing results: Southeast’s 102-year-old Franklin High School reopened in August after two years of construction and $113 million in improvements.

Worries about lead, asbestos, radon, and seismic codes are no more. There’s a new gym, with not one but three basketball courts, a new cafeteria, and a biomedical and culinary arts building. The new performing arts wing, with its sleek, reflective, louver-like slats and floor-to-ceiling windows, contrasts with the Colonial Revival architectural style of the original exterior. Inside, a 500-seat auditorium is paired with a small black-box theater for more intimate productions and theater classes. In the west wing, a “Maker Space” and study areas accomodate small groups of teachers and students. The new buildings have solar panels on the roof—the campus overall is certified LEED Silver.

“To be one of the first modernized schools is exciting,” says Franklin’s principal, Juanita Valder, noting the loss the quadrant’s students and parents felt after nearby Marshall shuttered in 2011. (Franklin students occupied the Marshall campus the past two years.) “Amazement and awe,” Valder says, “and, no lie, a couple of tears.” 

PPS says its long-term plan is to keep passing bond measures over the next 30 years to modernize its aging campuses, looking first at the most pressing needs among the nine high schools. Roosevelt came first. Grant is under way. The $790 million bond voters approved in May means Lincoln, Madison, and Benson are up.

Inspiration came via Seattle, which began a similar modernization process about 20 years ago.

“Seattle is way ahead of us,” says PPS’s David Mayne, bond communications director. “You want your schools and students having the best, newest facilities. It’s like a city—it evolves over time, and sometimes things the way they were originally built don’t make as much sense for modern life. Being able to redesign the school and make up for those deficiencies is one of the things we’ve been able to do.”

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