Expected to open doors in fall 2014

by: HOLLY M. GILL - Warm Springs Tribal Council members and officials from the USDA Rural Development and School District 509-J, as well as community members from Warm Springs broke ground for the new K-8 school just off Chukar Road, west of the Warm Springs Museum, on Friday. The project is expected to be ready for the start of school in fall 2014.Officials came from around the state, and as far away as Washington, D.C., for the long-awaited funding announcement and groundbreaking for the Warm Springs K-8 school on Friday.

On his first trip to Oregon, Dominique McCoy, chief of staff for the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development Housing and Community Facilities Programs in Washington, D.C., announced that Rural Development will provide a $6.8 million loan to build the $22 million school complex on the site.

The new, 80,000-square-foot school is "one of many steps we can take to build that better future," McCoy said. "I look forward to the next steps."

by: HOLLY M. GILL - Eugene 'Austin' Greene Jr.Tribal Council Chairman Eugene "Austin" Greene Jr. introduced speakers at the event, applauding the collaborative effort. "It's been a long, ongoing process," he said. "This is something for our children to look forward to for years to come."

Olney "J.P." Patt Jr., chief operating officer for the tribes, said that the process started in 2001, when tribal voters approved a referendum for a K-5 school. "That one didn't get rolling," he said.

When the tribes started pulling the plan together, Patt said, it looked insurmountable. "This project had a lot of moving pieces; it looked pretty daunting."

by: HOLLY M. GILL - Olney 'J.P.' Patt Jr.Finally, he said, the more than 5,000 tribal members agreed that it was time to build a new school. "By fall 2014, the doors will open for its first group of students."

Also representing the USDA Rural Development, State Director Vicki Walker recognized staff members who have worked on the project, and introduced McCoy, who described the department's funding process.

The USDA low-interest loan will go toward the tribes' share of the $21.4 million project. School District 509-J and the tribes are each expected to provide $10.7 million for the project.

State Sen. Ted Ferrioli, of John Day, Senate minority leader, said that he was grateful to be on hand to witness the culmination of the "dedicated efforts of a small group of people."

"The project will be the newest, most modern, most culturally rich school in the state of Oregon," he said.

by: HOLLY M. GILL - Stanley SpeaksStan Speaks, the Northwest regional director for the Bureau of Indian Affairs, recalled taking people to the reservation in 1984, when the tribes were first thinking about building a new school. "Unfortunately, it never was achieved," he said. "Regardless, the tribes never gave up."

Speaks said that he hopes to see the school as an example for other tribes to emulate. "It's one of those very special times that doesn't come around very often. This landscape's going to change; it's going to be different and it's going to be different for a reason," he said. "It can be a model for other schools across Indian Country."

Overall project manager, Dave Fishel, of the Weneha Group, said that he expects to begin earthwork on the Warm Springs school project in early July, and have concrete poured before winter. Kirby Nagelhout Construction Co. is the general contractor for the project, and BBT Architects is designing both the Madras and Warm Springs school projects.

"The primary focus from a design standpoint, esthetically, is to make sure the project fits the surroundings," said Fishel.

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