Showing off the new Vale Middle School: Officials plan ribbon cutting, public open house

The new Vale Middle School, which is adjacent to Vale High School on the southwest end of Viking Drive, will be ready to serve new students on Aug. 19. An open house is being held Monday so that members of the community can get a look inside the new school, which voters approved a $7 million bond for in November of 2016, with a $4 million match from the state.

VALE — Construction is done and the new Vale Middle School building is ready for students on the first day of school Aug. 19. But a week before that, the public will get the opportunity to have a look at the new building during a ribbon-cutting and open house on Monday.

The new middle school is adjacent to the high school.

Design of the 38,000 square-foot campus and middle school was done by Steele Associates Architects, and Petra, Inc. Meridian was the general contractor.

The new facility has eight classrooms for grades seven and eight, and a gym which can seat 900 people in the bleachers once the correct ones are in, said Superintendent Alisha McBride said, but did not say when those are expected to be in. With added seating on the gym floor, the total capacity will be 1,500.

Middle school students will be eating lunch in the high school cafeteria, she said, noting that the former middle school also did not have a cafeteria and students had to eat lunch at the elementary school.

A new wrestling room at the middle school will also be shared by high school athletes.

For the new school year, McBride said 125 students have been enrolled, but the building will have a capacity of 160 to 170 students.

During normal operation, all exterior doors will be locked, except the first set of front doors into the office, where an access control button will need to be pushed to allow visitors to get further into the building, McBride said.

Plans originally called for the old middle school building to be torn down, McBride said, and they are still in the planning stages of when that will happen. The land itself where the old school sat will stay with the district, however, as the school board voted to keep it for future use.

The old middle school in the 400 block of E Street West was constructed in 1936, so renovating it to get it back into good shape for a school would require extensive work. In 2015, a team of engineers estimated a price tag of $4.5 to $5 million, to support the building for a period of about 10 to 12 years, with replacement needed after that.

Those reasons coupled with other safety issues such as faulty plumbing and not being current with fire code where the main reason the school went out for a bond to pay for a new building.

To pay for the project, Vale School District voters approved an $8 million bond on Nov. 8, 2016 during the General Election, with nearly 1,400 yes votes. With the bond’s passage came an additional $4 million granted to the school district from the Oregon Department of Education as part of its Oregon Capital Improvement Matching Program, designed to provide funding for facility improvement projects across the state.

Larry Meyer is a reporter for the Argus Observer.

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