Students of Greater Albany Public Schools traded in their summer and headed back into the classroom on Tuesday for the 2019-2020 school year.
While all students found their desks in new classrooms, some students found their classrooms in brand-new schools this year.
GAPS celebrated the opening of Oak Grove Elementary school last Thursday. On Tuesday, the school welcomed its first students, some 360 of them.
“It’s been amazing,” said Jerrie Matuszak, the school's principal. “Students have been so respectful and kind. The new building is beautiful and it’s been an amazing day already.”
Oak Grove students, she said, were excited to be in the new space but they weren’t the only elementary students with more elbow room this year.
North Albany Elementary School opened its doors last year to Oak Grove students, ballooning the student population then to about 600 kids.
“It’s like the cousins all went home,” said North Albany Principal Kilee Sowa, who welcomed about 310 students back to school on Tuesday. And just before dismissal, she reported that the day had been hiccup-free.
“It’s been great,” she said. “It’s always great to get the students back in the building.”
Oak Grove’s absence at North Albany Elementary and its presence once again on Oak Grove Drive were the most noticeable physical changes in GAPS this year, but not the only changes. Construction has been ongoing around the district since last year after the passage of a $159 million bond in 2017 aimed at constructing Oak Grove and Meadow Ridge Elementary, as well as upgrading facilities around GAPS.
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As South Albany High School welcomed its freshman on Tuesday, those upgrades were still underway. According to Principal Nate Munoz, the school’s new theater space and career technical education classrooms should be completed within the next two weeks. The auxiliary gym, however, won’t serve students until at least January.
On Tuesday, RedHawk Pride Day saw the class of 2023 get acquainted with its home for the next four years.
“They do some orientation but it’s mostly team-building,” Munoz said. “They take a tour of the campus, there’s a barbecue in the courtyard and they go through their schedules.”
Sophomores, juniors and seniors will join their fellow Red Hawks on Wednesday.
Over at Albany Options School, the district’s alternative high school, students and teachers were focused on the future. This year’s theme is ‘legacy’ and at least one person has their eye on setting records.
“Last year we had a record breaking graduation class of 75 students,” said principal John Hunter. In 2009, the school graduated 10 students. “It shows the incredible growth we have accomplished in the last decade. We have a legacy of always striving to do better, setting the bar high, having great students and staff and always doing better than the year before,” he said. “This year will be no exception.”
GAPS will start the school year with new faces at the district-level as well. The GAPS school board welcomed three new members — two during the May election and one last month after former board member Micah Smith resigned his seat. Michael Thomson, Eric Aguinaga and Pat Eastman join chair Jennifer Ward and member Kim Butzner. The district will have a new leader as well in superintendent Melissa Goff, who officially took the reins in June.
Students in the Corvallis School District start school on Wednesday.