Once more with feeling
Early Monday, students began filing into the auditorium at Beaverton's Arts & Communication Magnet Academy.
Some came alone, some in clusters of friends. It was Day 1 for all new, incoming students, regardless of class (ACMA serves grades six through 12). Kids from ages 11 to 18 looked equally lost at sea, trying to figure out their way around the new, unfamiliar environs.
Incoming sixth-grader Anna Christy entered with awe and asked, timidly, "Can we sit anywhere?" She carried a bag of supplies in each hand and a teal backpack more or less the same size as herself. Eventually she found a seat near the back to quietly take it all in.
Students did the same thing on Day 1 of past years. But this will be the "last first day" for ACMA. At least in its current existence. When the school year ends in nine months, ACMA will be largely torn down. The students who won the lottery to get into the magnet school will attend classes at an alternative site for 2019-20, and will return to a brand new, state-of-the-art school in 2020-21.
Saying goodbye to the old building is bittersweet, said Principal Bjorn Paige. But more "sweet" than "bitter."
"Seriously, our cafeteria, gym and theater are a Quonset hut!" he laughed. "This wasn't built to be an arts school. While I love that our dance room is two repurposed classrooms, I won't miss the actual, funky classroom."
The building opened its doors as C.E. Mason Elementary School in 1949. it didn't become Beaverton's version of the set of "Fame" until 1992.
And the consensus on Monday was: It's time to ring in the new.
Mark Brandau teaches painting in a classroom that accommodates 30 students but has only one sink.
"The transition will be tough but I'm not worried," he said. "I think it'll be a challenge. But I won't miss these facilities."
Alexis Stovall, a ninth-grader, was meeting Brandau's cramped quarters for the first time Monday. She applied for the lottery to be an ACMA student because she heard it had a good orchestra. "And I want to be around people who care about art," she said.
Catcher Propst, ninth-grade, tentative drew and colored in a leaf with a skeptical look on his face. "I got in for writing. I..." He paused, thinking about it, then smiled. "I guess I'm good at it."
Dancer Jada Lee started at ACMA as a sixth-grader. Next spring, she'll graduate. The best advice she got, six years ago? "Probably, not to be afraid to talk to anybody. Including other students," she said.
This week, Lee and other members of the National Honor Society were serving as tour guides for the newcomers.
Lee said she was pleased by the timing of how things worked out. "I'm glad that I'm the last class at the original ACMA," she said. "I wouldn't want to graduate anywhere else. It has a special place in my heart."
Her school year won't end without a bang, Bjorn Paige said. Channeling his inner Baz Luhrmann, Paige said the school will host a "Spectacular Spectacular" in May to see out the storied old building one last time.
Anna Christy — she of the enormous teal backpack — won't look quite so lost by then. Sitting in the auditorium at 7:30 on Monday, she looked around with a sly smile and seemed to settle in. "I'm really excited about theater," she said. "I'm already thinking about auditioning for some of the plays."
As the auditorium bubbled with laughter and energy, Anna ratcheted up the smile a few notches.
"I think this is the right school for me."
A story on the first day at several other Beaverton schools will appear in Thursday's print edition of The Times.