Legacy and vision combine at remodeled McDaniel High School
Leodis V. McDaniel High School's $202.5 million remodel was unveiled to the public Saturday, Sept. 18.
In a grand opening ceremony at the revamped campus, a new commons area, specialty science labs, a new theater and gym showcased 170,000 square feet of new construction at the site. The McDaniel campus remodel was given LEED silver certification for its focus on sustainability. The school features a 290kW solar panel array, natural light that pours into every common area, 10,000 tons of recycled crushed concrete from the demolition and a rainwater catchment and cleaning system that "recharges the local aquifer," according to the Portland Public Schools district. The McDaniel campus can now house up to 1,700 students and also includes a community health center, a child care facility and a food pantry.
The project was paid for with 2012 and 2017 school bond funds.
Elle Hansen, a sophomore at McDaniel High, reveled at the upgraded theater area.
"On our stage, we have a fully working, professional fly system that allows us to lift set props up into the rafters," Hansen said, noting the all-gender bathrooms and "state-of-the-art technology" are also impressive.
This year marked the first time students returned to the campus. For the past two years, McDaniel students have been shuffled to the Marshall High School campus during the construction process.
The campus on Northeast 82nd Avenue wasn't the only thing to get an overhaul. Earlier this year, the Portland Public Schools Board of Education approved renaming the school from James Madison High to Leodis McDaniel High School, after a former principal at the school who served there from 1983 to 1987, when he died unexpectedly.
McDaniel was "one of only a handful of Black High school principals in Oregon in the 1970s and 1980s and was tasked with leading Madison through desegregation and busing," according to Portland Public Schools. The district noted McDaniel was "wildly popular with students and staff" during his tenure, and earned several awards and accolades from community organizations.
"Mr. McDaniel was well known for his kind demeanor, contagious laugh, integrity and instinctual ability to deeply connect with all people," Keylah Boyer, vice principal at McDaniel, said during the ceremony.
"He was definitely a legacy builder and left some of that legacy with not only some of his family but with his students," Boyer said after the ceremony.
Boyer said the remodel gives students "the opportunity to be educated in a state-of-the-art building."
"We have brand new spaces … there's light, it's bright, there's a lot of flexible learning spaces where students can learn and there's a lot of 'part of the community' feel to the building," Boyer said, noting the sports fields were also recently redone.
In attendance Saturday were several members of McDaniel's family.
Fawn McDaniel said seeing her father's name on the school is "humbling."
"When they first told me there was a possibility that my father's name would be on the high school, I couldn't believe it. I still can't really believe it," she told a packed room at the high school. "I purposely didn't drive by the building. I just wanted to be surprised instead. We're very grateful. Madison was a great high school and McDaniel will be a great high school."
After the ceremony, Fawn McDaniel reflected on her father's influence in Portland.
"We're very proud, because my dad cared for this community very much," she said. "I know he meant something to this community."
Two of McDaniel's extended family members are carrying on his education legacy.
Kiante Holmes, McDaniel's great-niece, is a school-based social worker at Jefferson High School. Paul Peters, McDaniel's great-nephew, is also a social worker at Alliance at Kenton.
"He 1,000% helped my trajectory," Peters said. "My dad reminds me of that all the time."
Peters runs his own nonprofit, in addition to being a school-based social worker.
"All the things I do to serve youth, my dad's like, 'that's exactly what my uncle did, was serve people and make things easier and better for other people,' so it's definitely an honor to be here and celebrate this."
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