After an earthquake in Mexico caused the death of 30 children at a school last week, Oregon Senate President Peter Courtney (D-Salem) reminded this state's school districts that grant funding is available for seismic upgrades.
The next round of applications for Seismic Rehabilitation Grants opens Oct. 2.
“Often it is a tragedy that convinces us what what we must do to prevent a tragedy,” Courtney said in a statement. “We know a massive earthquake is coming. We know we’re not ready. We still have far too many schools in our state that need to be reinforced. We got a late start and we are living on borrowed time. Not taking action to make our schools and other public buildings safe is criminal.”
This round of grants will fund $25 million for schools and another $10 for emergency services facilities. The deadline is Jan. 31, 2018.
Courtney touted his efforts to provide the funding (though in 2015, Courtney advocated for a $337 million upgrade to the Capitol—which critics fought in part by arguing that protecting schools from earthquakes should take priority).
The city's list of buildings most likely to collapse during an earthquake includes 19 Portland Public Schools' buildings that are entirely unreinforced masonry and haven't been fixed.
From that list, one school—Grant High School—is now under construction, in part thanks to grants the state is providing.
The current school bond approved by voters in May will completely overhaul one more unreinforced masonry building, Benson High School.
But unlike 2012 bond, the May 2016 bond included no money specially for upgrading schools' seismic capacity if they're not getting a full rebuild. This past summer, the district delayed $11 million in seismic work because of high construction costs, The Oregonian reported in June.
It's not clear if the district plans to apply for the state grants going forward.
Asked if the district would be applying for state grants this year, PPS spokesman David Northfield referred to the funding Grant High has already received.
Update, 8/25: PPS spokesman David Northfield says the district will apply this year—and plans to apply for two to three schools every year the grant is available.