Keeping the updates straight: Plans to expand PVCSD


FRK architects

FRK architects + engineers presented a rendering of the PVJH addition to the school board. Additional images and a floor plan for both PVJH and Forest Grove Elementary School are available here.

Gretchen Highberger, Copy Editor

Most students at PVHS have noticed the effects of a rapidly growing district and have grumbled about crowded halls, longer lunch lines and locker shortages. However, they must be patient. The district plans to expand the high school, possibly with the addition of three more towers, but not before attending to the more dire expansion needs of elementary and junior high buildings. 

Enrollment in the district has been rapidly increasing for over a decade, with most recent growth occurring primarily at the kindergarten through sixth grade levels. In a July school board meeting, Superintendent Brian Struz reported that elementary growth from the end of the 2021-2022 school year to the start of the 2022-2023 school year was already up 150 students. This drastically outpaced the growth of 75 to 90 kindergarten students per year the district had experienced in recent years. 

Forest Grove Elementary was opened in August 2022 as a two-section building. In order to accommodate the unprecedented growth, PVCSD will accelerate the planned expansion of the school from two sections to four sections. This project will be completed by the start of the 2024-2025 school year, doubling the building’s capacity just two years after its original opening

These large classes will eventually make their way to the high school, but before that, they will attend the junior high. The junior high is already experiencing an increase in enrollment outpacing that of the high school. From October 2021 to August 2022, PVJH enrollment increased from 799 students to 856 students, a seven percent increase. Over the same period, PVHS enrollment increased from 1650 students to 1684 students, only a two percent increase. 

As a result of this dramatic increase in enrollment, the district recently unveiled plans to expand the junior high at the same time as it expands Forest Grove. At the suggestion of FRK architects and engineers, the two projects will be bid as one to maximize efficiency. Bids are due on Nov. 29, 2022. The public hearing and approval is planned for the December 19, 2022 board meeting agenda. 

The junior high expansion project will increase the building’s capacity to approximately 1300 students by the start of the 2024-2025 school year. 13 classrooms, an art classroom, two science classrooms and a new main office will be added to the front of the building. Additionally, the old main office will be renovated to house the new counseling office. The cafeteria will be expanded as well. 

Until this expansion is completed, PVJH must use the limited space available to provide all students with an excellent educational experience. English-Language Arts teacher Jenna Ward has enough seats in her classroom, but the high volume of students in her classroom hinders her ability to create an ideal setup. “When class sizes exceed capacity, I have had to get creative with mixing desks into my typical table set up which interrupts collaborative learning. When there isn’t enough space, the types of interactive activities we can do are limited, too,” she said.

Grant Guilfoyle, eighth grader at PVJH, doesn’t feel his educational experience has been negatively impacted. “Not only do they [the school] provide you with a school Chromebook, also a charger for it. I don’t find myself sharing very many things with people very often but it happens sometimes. I don’t think that the classes are over crowded at all, there are enough desks and room for everyone,” he said. 

Thanks to the tireless efforts of teachers and administrators, the quality of instruction has not faltered. Thus far, the biggest complaint from students related to increased enrollment is that hallways are hard to navigate and the lunchroom is cramped. “The hallways are very crowded however, it can be very hard to get where you need to be on time. At lunch, it is always really hard to get a good seat at the beginning of a new quarter but as long as you get a good seat then you should be fine,” Guilfoyle continued. 

Unlike high school, where students can choose their seat each day at lunch, junior high students choose a seat at the start of each quarter and sit there each day. This system was implemented after the class of 2023 graduated eighth grade. 

Senior Jaelyn Guilfoyle contrasted her experience at the junior high with that of her younger brother. “I never felt like it was overcrowded,” she said. “The hallways were usually easy to navigate and there were not too many people.” 

While passing periods and lunch still present a challenge, PVJH has alleviated traffic in other areas. A roundabout was completed before the start of the 2022-2023 school year, greatly reducing congestion during drop-off and pick-up times. An outdoor obstacle course, basketball hoops and gaga ball pits were added, enhancing the physical education program. The track will be resurfaced in the summer of 2023 in conjunction with the high school track replacement. 

Maddie Reynolds is a former PVJH student who returned to the building as a physical education and health teacher. During her time at the junior high, the ‘B’ and ‘C’ gyms had just been completed, the outdoor track was crushed limestone and dirt and the classrooms on the back of the building had not yet been added. “Physically, the building has probably doubled since I went to school here,” she said. “Class sizes have changed drastically. There are a lot MORE staff and a lot of new staff. There are still teachers here that were here when I went to PVJH, but there are also so many more staff now.”

Amidst the challenging changes, the focus of Reynolds and the other wellness teachers remains on promoting the physical and mental well-being of PVJH students. “No matter how many students we have in the school, we want them to have as much physical activity as they can and that is important to all of the wellness teachers at the JH,” she said. “We all know that physical activity helps us physically, mentally, emotionally, and socially and is so important in our lives. We will continue to have hard conversations about our wellness programs, but we will always think about what is best for students, which is movement,” she continued

The determination of staff to continue to put students at the forefront of decision-making extends beyond the wellness program. Ward says that while the growth is a learning curve, it is also an exciting opportunity. “Educators are creative. We are problem solvers,” she said. “I would express that everyone is doing their best, so it is important to be patient. The updates will definitely be worth the wait!”

The expansion and updates at the junior high are another significant step in the growth of PVCSD. As the district continues to welcome more students, community members should stay patient and informed, recognizing that administrators, teachers and other other staff members make each decision with the needs of the students in mind.