Whiteaker Renovation

Laura Perez (far right) greets teachers and community members who got a first look at the newly renovated school Tuesday, Aug. 31. Left: Student teacher Emily Jones and choir director Andy Thomas move instruments out of a closet where they were stored for the summer. (Keizertimes/ERIC A. HOWALD)

By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

While many of the changes to Whiteaker Middle School are visible, the biggest one will be felt more than seen, said Laura Perez, Whiteaker principal.

It’s repairs to the school’s heating and ventilation system.

“We had one classroom where it would be almost 90 degrees and the room next door was 60 degrees,” said Perez. “Orchestra students were cutting the finger tips off their gloves to play inside the school. We’d adjust the temperature and it would get too hot the instruments would fall out of tune.”

The school underwent a major facelift during the summer to repair several maintenance and  usability issues. Teachers were allowed into the school for the first time Tuesday, Aug. 31. Other repairs completed included:

• Replacing the roof, windows, floor coverings, siding, water supply lines and damaged ceiling tiles;

• Installing solid partition walls in eight classrooms;

• New lighting throughout the school;

• Sealing the building’s exterior.

Funding for makeover came primarily from the $242 million construction bond that gained voter approval in November 2008. Funds for new lighting came from a grant.

The installation of the solid walls in some classrooms will be a major improvement for the teachers and students using them.

“We used to have accordion walls that could be pushed back to make two smaller classrooms one large space, but the walls were so thin the joke became that students were learning Spanish while in their social studies class,” Perez said.

One particular room’s layout was so poor that students from one classroom had to cut through another to access the hallway and other parts of the school.

“It led to a lot of disruptions,” Perez said.

Orchestra teacher Bonnie Gallagher was moving many of her instruments back into her classroom shortly after teachers were allowed into the school. She was most excited about seeing her students again, but the fresh carpet and coat of paint will help.

“[School climate] is important in establishing a mood, and when it’s brighter the students are more attentive,” Gallagher said.

Perez said the the refurbished digs will enhance the overall quality of students’ experiences at Whiteaker.

“[Whiteaker] looks loved and the new paint and floors remind us that we’re here with the intention of learning and we care about our kids,” she said.