Vernonia Schools

After devastating floods ravaged Vernonia school infrastructure, Oregon Solutions brought government agencies and community leaders together to locate, fund, and rebuild new facilities on higher ground. In December 2010, the team celebrated the groundbreaking of a new K-12 school campus under construction, and in August 2012 the community celebrated the opening of the new school building.

Problem Statement

In Columbia County in 2007, eleven inches of rain fell within 24 hours, causing severe flooding and damage to Vernonia school buildings. As a result, over 700 students had to attend school in substandard buildings and modular classrooms located in the floodplain.


Bring government entities, the Vernonia School District, industry representatives, civic organizations, and philanthropic organizations together to ensure that Vernonia schoolchildren have access to safe, healthy, and educationally-sound school facilities. The collaborative team worked together to scout a location and leverage funding to build a new state-of-the-art school campus.


  • Rebuild a safe and sustainable school system outside the 500-year floodplain
  • Leverage funding for school construction
  • Expedite the permitting, planning, and construction of the school campus
  • Demonstrate a shift to renewable energy and sustainable use of local forest resources
  • Design green buildings to meet LEED certification
  • Act as a “living laboratory” for sustainability in rural America
  • Integrate a unique K-12 design
  • Create long-term economic and educational opportunities
  • Provide community space for adult education and job skills training
  • Foster stewardship of the Upper Nehalem Watershed through curriculum, partnerships, and restoration projects
  • Incorporate art and community history
  • Foster strong rural-urban connections through scholarship, teaching and community engagement


  • Collaborative partnerships led to the identification and permitting of a new campus site
  • Raised $30 million out of an estimated $38 million needed for school construction
    • In 2011, Federal Emergency Management Agency acquired existing school buildings and awarded $11.2 million toward new construction
    • In 2009, Vernonia passed a $13 million bond measure to fund the campus
  • In December 2010, construction crews broke ground
  • Campus integrates a kindergarten, middle, and high school in three buildings
  • Designed as the first LEED platinum-certified public K-12 building in the country
  • Design incorporates green practices to ensure a healthy indoor/outdoor environment
  • A biomass boiler will heat school buildings and serve as renewable energy test case
  • Campus includes a Vernonia Rural Sustainability Center with science labs and classrooms for adult education and job skills training
  • Oregon colleges and universities will conduct sustainable forestry and clean energy research on site
  • Campus includes wetland mitigation, a native plant nursery, and identification gardens
  • Shows how school investment catalyzes rural economic development and recovery
  • Involves the pledged commitment of over twenty-two organizations to the project
  • Includes funding and volunteering from over 125 individuals and organizations