Bond-funded school buildings prepared to serve community during crises

Investments in modernized, safe public schools are investments in the health and safety of not only our students but the community at large. Gresham-Barlow School District buildings are often called-upon to become critical infrastructure during times of emergency, and staging grounds for public safety initiatives.

“Our community’s investment in these safe, modernized buildings provide benefit to everyone in the community,” said Gresham-Barlow Superintendent Dr. A. Katrise Perera. “Thanks to the 2016 Gresham-Barlow School Bond, we now have numerous renovated buildings eligible to serve the needs of our community in times of emergency.”

This past fall, the newly renovated Sam Barlow High School (SBHS) was called into action to serve the community. The building was used as an incident command center site for first responders and firefighters battling the Riverside Fire. These fires reached the very edge of the Gresham-Barlow community in September, just across the border in Estacada and Sandy.

At the time, students were receiving instruction in an online setting due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which made the entire campus available to more than 500 firefighters from across the country camped on Barlow’s fields for two weeks. The firefighters were granted access to the modernized locker rooms, renovated cafeteria, parking lots, fields, and classrooms as a staging ground for a response to the fires. Commanding officers also used the cafeteria and eighteen classrooms for their operation, with classrooms covered in maps and full of firefighters holding meetings on how to protect the community from the encroaching wildfires. SBHS provided potable water, bathrooms, showers, meals to firefighters, and the firefighters also were able to access copiers, printers, and internet access.

Additionally, the new, bond-funded kitchens and cafeterias have been put to use during the pandemic. For instance, the Sam Barlow High School kitchen is used to prepare meals that are then delivered by school buses to neighborhoods. GBSD director of facilities Terry Taylor was thrilled to see the new buildings serve a vital role in battling the wildfires and providing for nearby families during the pandemic.

“We were grateful to work with national partners and offer our school campuses in support of protecting our community,” said Taylor. “We hope all of our schools and district resources can be of use if and when disaster strikes again, and thanks to the school bond we are better prepared to do so. We will continue to work with first responders to make sure we can do our part for the greater East County community.”