WOODBURN, Ore. – Nearly a year after a fire that heavily damaged Woodburn High School, students are still in portable classrooms, and the district says it could take three or four years to get the school back to full operation.
Entire sections of the school are still off limits because of the fire damage.
According to the district's research, three or four years is a normal timeline for a partially burned school that still has kids in classes. But its insurance provider says otherwise.
There's a lot still to be done at Woodburn High. The auditorium seats have all been removed, professionally cleaned and put back.
But the bare floors and the water damaged walls are all still there more than a year after the fire destroyed the metal shop. It sits untouched.
"It's thorough, it's slow, it's methodical, it's at times frustrating," said Superintendent Chuck Ransom Jr.
He said it's all taking longer at the high school in part because of the choice to keep kids attending class during the repairs.
By comparison, Crestline Elementary in Vancouver, Wash. that burned to the ground and is completely rebuilding, aims to open up in the fall of next year. All of its students are at other schools.
Alex Pulaski, spokesman for Pace Insurance – the insurance pool covering Woodburn – said during a phone interview that a delay like this is unique.
"We're not familiar with any instance in which a year after the claim was filed, there's not been any significant work done," he said.
Pulaski said most school damage claims have major work beginning within a year. He pointed to the fire in West Linn High School's gym as an example.
He said the delays in Woodburn boil down to a dispute over money.
"Disagreement between Pace and the district over the value of the loss," Pulaski said. "We have an adjuster working on that, they have an adjuster working on that, and we're trying to reach an agreement."
The insurance provider says they've paid out $4.1 million in this fire claim already.
KATU has asked the district for an itemized list of how that $4 million has been spent.
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