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Chehalem Online Academy, new middle school program are newest occupants in Newberg building.

COURTESY RENDERING: NEWBERG SCHOOL DISTRICT - Thanks to the $141 million bond voters passed in 2020 for various school district projects, Catalyst has received $8.7 million to expand its building to tackle multiple educational needs in the community.

In a year or more, Catalyst High School will double in size.

Thanks to the $141 million bond voters passed in 2020 for various school district projects, Catalyst has received $8.7 million to expand its building to tackle multiple educational needs in the community.

One of these needs is space for Newberg's other alternative education programs. Catalyst itself is Newberg High School's alternative counterpart.

"It just makes sense to have different options that are nontraditional all in the same place," Catalyst Principal Tim Graham said.

The school's other occupants will be Chehalem Online Academy (COA) and a middle school program.

The move is particularly exciting for the 350 students attending COA, Newberg's hybrid online learning program, as the school has changed locations every year since its inception. Its new headquarters in a pod at Catalyst will have space for tutoring and other in-person activities.

As of now, not much is known about the middle school program, only that it will be modeled off of Catalyst and there will be designated space for it in the building.

"We knew there was a need for options for middle school students," Graham said, adding that both parents and educators in the district had inquired about creating an alternative middle school in Newberg.

"I think we're starting to learn educationally, systemwide, that students need choices and parents want choices …," he added. "So, it's really about creating additional options for students and families … whether that be a smaller location or a more project-based learning or more CTE-focused."

Graham also sought to dispel common misconceptions of Catalyst and the other alternative programs.

"I think, traditionally, people think of alternative ed as kids being sent away from a larger school," Graham said. "In reality, what it is becoming and what it has become is an option for students. You know, adults don't fit into boxes. Neither do students.

"We have the whole spectrum from straight-A students, all the way to 'large high school is not a great fit,' all the way to students who are struggling academically. So, we're able to be more flexible because we're small … (and) can meet individual needs and interests."

Other additions to Catalyst include a gym, which the school currently does not have; a shop and equipment for Career Technical Education (CTE) classes; upgrading and expanding Catalyst's shared parking lot with Mabel Rush Elementary School to accommodate the predicted influx of students; and overall more classroom space for Catalyst students.

"The original idea (for the expansion) was we were out of space at Catalyst, so we needed additional classrooms," Graham said. "We have more students wanting in than we can take."

Eventually other needs were identified, such as a gym for physical education classes and certain activities in Catalyst's first responder pathway program for firefighting and police protection.

Construction is expected to begin this summer and be completed at the earliest by fall 2023, but it could take longer, depending on market conditions, such as material costs, Graham said.

"I think it's a great opportunity for the students and families in Newberg because we have had to turn students away in the past because of space limitations," Graham said. "Not only does this allow more of those students to come to Catalyst, but it also keeps students from leaving the school district and choosing options outside of the school district."

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