While Gov. Jay Inslee has ordered a halt to most construction, contractors are still working at school facilities — albeit with precautions.
Inslee’s March 25 “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” proclamation prohibits commercial and residential construction, unless it’s related to essential activities. That includes schools, which means multimillion-dollar bond-funded construction in the Vancouver and Evergreen school districts is ongoing.
According to district officials, work remains on schedule.
“Similar to other work locations, contractors issued guidance to the workers and subcontractors to follow (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) guidelines for physical distancing, posted guidelines and not to share tools,” said Todd Horenstein, assistant superintendent for facilities support services for Vancouver Public Schools.
Portland contractor Skanska USA Building is constructing McLoughlin Middle School and Marshall Elementary School in the Vancouver school district at a cost of more than $90 million. The schools are slated for completion later this spring. The contractor is also set to start construction on Mountain View High School in neighboring Evergreen Public Schools this summer.
In a statement posted on its website, the company said it’s providing additional hand sanitizer and washing stations on work sites. Skanska is also mandating remote work and shift rotations where possible to limit the number of workers on-site.
“Skanska is vigilant and diligent about maintaining safety and distancing protocols, having instituted specific action before Governor Inslee made the mandates,” said Dianne Danowski Smith, a spokeswoman for the company, by email this week.
Three elementary school sites are currently under construction in Evergreen Public Schools: Image, Sifton and the new elementary school at Northeast 39th Street and Northeast 162nd Avenue.
District officials say progress is ongoing as scheduled at the three sites, and contractors have made similar efforts to keep workers safe.
Lake Oswego, Ore., contractor Pence Construction is currently working at the Sifton site at a cost of more than $30 million. In a construction plan submitted to the district, Pence instructed all workers to take their temperature daily, before and after work.
The plan also outlines steps for using personal protective gear, disinfecting surfaces and keeping gatherings to fewer than 10 people.
Inslee’s halt on most construction has drawn controversy.
The Building Industry Association of Clark County and Clark County Council joined officials statewide in urging the governor’s office to lift the moratorium due to concerns over the economic impact of the decision.