Why was the bond needed? A custodian weighs in on building.

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Lincoln High School custodian Randy Black sums things up succinctly.

“Every valve leaks in this school,” says Black, talking about the core issues with the current Lincoln building, which has withstood about 66 years of use and abuse.

Black recently took the Cardinal Times on a tour of parts of the building that few students ever see. During the tour, he pointed out problems that come with turning out thousands of students over six-plus decades: leaking pipes, disintegrating floor tiles and mold — just to name a few of the problems.

Constructed in 1951, Lincoln High School has faced criticism from many students, as they are concerned with possible structural and/or health issues.

Now that a $790 million bond issue has passed, Portland Public Schools will be able to construct a new Lincoln High School. But that won’t be finished until at least four years. That leaves people like Black to deal with the current building’s multitude of assumed problems, as questions are raised on what the actual problems are and how severe they seem.

As Black stated previously, the campus’s 60-year-old pipes aren’t exactly in the best condition. The pipes that supply heat to the radiators in every class continuously run into problems. Due to the leaks, ceiling tiles rot, the floor tiling falls apart, and mold takes over the main office.

The leaks wouldn’t be as bad as they are if someone was there to fix them. According to Black however, the repair crews have been downsized over time by PPS.

“Ten years ago they had 60 percent more guys,” Black says. He continues to describe PPS’s current maintenance team, saying “Everyone’s gone except for skeleton crews,” and that “…without maintenance it starts to fall apart.”

The pipes aren’t the only thing that’s leaking in Lincoln High School. When walking around the second floor, many students will notice the deteriorating roof and the brownish sludgy water dripping from the ceiling. That’s because the roof also leaks in a number of places.

Despite being constructed out of concrete and tar, the roof started to leak after the custodial staff had to walk on it in order to perform an inspection. Ever since then, the roof has been repeatedly patched instead of being replaced.

Structurally speaking, the building is fine; Black says it won’t collapse anytime soon and could possibly survive an earthquake. All the wiring and electricity is to code. Possible asbestos is taken care of and it only builds up in areas students don’t have access to.

All of this information may cause some students to wonder why the roof and pipes can’t just be replaced. The answer is that it’s far too pricy.  In fact, the district has estimated it would cost far more to renovate Lincoln ($252 million) than to tear it down and start over ($187 million).

In Black’s professional opinion, completely fixing the roofing and plumbing would require tearing through some of Lincoln’s walls and foundation. Digging through the structure of a building that was designed to act as a fallout shelter during the cold war, wouldn’t be cheap.

With the new bond being passed, the possibilities are endless with how new plumbing and roofing can be created. If a new campus is built, all of these problems could be solved if they are constructed in a new and improved building.