Current Cecil Sly administrator Jim Bates will lead the new school while Cheri Rasmussen, currently at Crooked River, will take over at Cecil Sly in 2015

Ground has barely been broken on the construction of Prineville's new elementary school but the school district has already begun the task of realigning staff and students.

Jim Bates, currently the principal at Cecil Sly Elementary, will assume the helm of the new school when it opens in September of 2015.

Bates will have logged eight years at the helm of Cecil Sly by the time the new facility opens, and he is looking forward to the challenge of leading the new school.

"As you can imagine I am honored to have a role in this unique time in Crook County schools," he said. "Leading a new collection of students, families and staff is exciting."

Cheri Rasmussen, currently the principal at Crooked River Elementary, looks forward to her continued journey through the schools of Crook County, when she takes Bates' place at Cecil Sly.

"Being an old Crook County native, I went to Ochoco Elementary, and my mom was a student for 12 years at Crooked River, when it was the original high school," She said. "Cecil Sly will be my last place."

Superintendent Dr. Duane Yecha thought it important to assign principals now.

"We wanted to do this early so Jim could be in on the planning for the new school and Cheri could work on all aspects of the Cecil Sly remodel," explained Yecha. "We want principals involved in the planning of those two buildings."

Yecha added that both principals have been involved with the planning process for the new school since the beginning.

"Awhile back I had asked Jim to work on planning projects for the new school," he said. "At that time, Jim favored heading up the new school, and Cheri favored going to Cecil Sly. It seemed natural to take that recommendation to the school board."

Ochoco and Crooked River Elementary will close its doors at the end of the 2014-2015 academic years, with the three school's students and staff reallocated between the new school and Cecil Sly.

School Board member Scott Cooper wants everyone to understand that the process is about three schools becoming two, while still supporting the entire community.

Bates agreed, although he acknowledged there are challenges ahead.

"Part of our timeline is to manage the relocation of staff," he said. "It is our plans to give everyone an opportunity to express where they would like to be and take that input when making decisions. There will be some issues and we will face those as they come."

Rasmussen believes that the strong family atmosphere that exists at Crooked River will transfer nicely to Cecil Sly.

"Cecil Sly is a bigger school and it will be harder to maintain that atmosphere with double the children," she noted, "But, I am a huge believer in family and I will carry that with me."

Bates and Rasmussen have already begun talking about what Rasmussen calls "a gamut of possibilities," when it comes to merging three schools into two.

"I think the transition will be relatively smooth," she said. "The hardest task is determining how to divide the students, with the goal of keeping both schools at about the same size."

According to Yecha, work on how to reassign students has already begun.

Part of the realignment process is to understand where student populations are and designating school boundaries based on what works best for bus routes and student safety. To that end, the school district has purchased transportation software that will assist the district in redrawing bus routes.

"We have preliminarily divided the town along Third and Main," said Yecha, "And we know that the majority of students live in the north east and south east quadrants. We want to be especially sensitive with regards to high traffic areas."

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