Westside Christian High Schools new home off Pacific Highway is a dream that took decades to bring to life

by: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Westside Christian High School student Mikke Rivet helps move boxes and supplies during Mondays move-in day at the new school. For years the school was located in Lake Oswego, but moved into its new home off Pacific Highway and Highway 217 this week.Fifteen years ago, Don Westerberg pressed his nose against the glass and looked inside the old General Motors building off Pacific Highway and dreamed of someday teaching in a building like that.

On Monday, he moved in.

Students and faculty at Westside Christian High School claimed their new home near Highway 217 this week. It’s the culmination of years of planning and prayer, Westerberg said, a teacher at the school for the past 28 years.

For years, the school rented space out of Lake Bible Church in Lake Oswego, but had never had a home of its own.

“It’s pretty incredible,” Westerberg said, looking around his largely empty classroom. A stack of boxes line the floor, and rows of chairs are stacked against one wall. “It brings back a flood of memories for me — both corporately and personally.”

Westerberg, who teaches sophomore- and junior-level Bible classes, has held nearly every position on campus from teacher to principal.

When he first started teaching in the 1980s, the school was housed in what is now Riverdale High School.

“At that time we had eight teachers and 65 kids,” he said.

When he first toured the General Motors site, Westerberg was vice principal of the school. They drove up on a whim one morning and looked around the property, but knew they could never afford to move into such a large building.

“From the little postage stamp-sized elementary school we were working in, we thought this place was incredible, but we didn’t have any money,” he recalled.

Now, to call this place home is a miracle, Westerberg said.

“To actually be walking into this building and knowing this space is actually ours, that is an incredible thing for us,” he said. “It’s a provision of God.”

The school purchased the property located at 8200 S.W. Pfaffle St. last February and has spent the past year remodeling the building.

It’s a massive project, costing the school $12.27 million.

Students and faculty spent Monday and Tuesday unpacking and getting the school organized before classes officially resumed today (Thursday).

Construction on the school isn’t quite finished yet.

By the summer, the school will have completed construction of its gymnasium and will begin working on its grounds, which will include a soccer field and other sports facilities. by: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Westside Christian High School student Rachel Nordlund, center, and others unpack boxes of textbooks in a storage room at the schools new home off Pacific Highway. Classes at the school began today.

‘It’s exciting’

The school currently enrolls about 200 students, and the new building has the capacity to double that number.

Freshman student Anna Heye, 15, said she is ready to start class in the new building.

“I think I’m most excited for the new gym,” she said. “And windows! We have windows in the classrooms. We’ve never had those before.”

Heye has two siblings who also attend the school.

“It’s exciting,” she said, as she helped unpack boxes in the school’s library. “(The move) has been anticipated for a long time.”

Students and teachers have been eagerly awaiting the move, giving frequent trips of the new building to anyone interested and providing students frequent trips to see the progress as construction crews finished their work.

“We had everything packed up the day before Christmas break,” Westerberg said. “It was sitting there waiting for us when we got back, ready to move.”

Westerberg said the school won’t become just another part of the scenery. He expects students to make a name for themselves in the community.

“When we come into a neighborhood, we are not coming in to soak from them, we want to be a part of that neighborhood and contribute back as well,” Westerberg said. “We don’t want to become an isolated thing up on the hill that everybody looks at and says, ‘I wonder who those people are?’ I want them to know who we are.”by: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Teacher Don Westerberg unpacks books in his classroom on Monday. A longtime staple of the school, Westerberg has served in one function or another for the past 28 years, from the schools early days with less than 70 students to its current home, which has room for 400.

Family setting

On the wall, Westerberg hung a banner donated to him from the class of 1988, the year the school went to the state championships in basketball.

“We had 135 people staying for a whole week in Baker City to watch the game,” he said. “We only have 65 kids in the whole school.”

The team lost in the end, but Westerberg said the school’s spirit and love for one another has been a driving motivator.

“Whatever happened there has defined us ever since,” he said. “That was a watershed moment for this school. It codified in our minds what Westside is really all about. It wasn’t necessarily about winning. We want excellence and for you to do the best that you can. But whatever you do, we want it to count and to be something that glorifies God and is a blessing to other people.”

After nearly three decades in the classroom, Westerberg said he has no plans to go anywhere else.

“What keeps me here is the passion of what this school is all about,” he said. “That image of a school that intimately wanted to have an impact on the lives of kids, almost like a family setting. And even though we have grown in staff and student body since those early days, that same spirit is here.”

Westerberg has two daughters who graduated from the school.

“There is just something unique about this place that keeps people here for a long time and draws people back,” he said.

Across the hall from Westerberg, first-year teacher Zachary Olson said the new building was a way for him to leave his mark.

“It’s a nice, fresh start,” he said. “When I came in, I was stepping into someone else’s shoes, but now I get to make it my own.”

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