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School officials celebrate grand opening of new building near district office, high school

JUSTIN MUCH - Woodburn School District Superintendent Chuck Ranson addresses visitors to the open-house/ribbon-cutting ceremony at Success High School on Thursday, Sept. 27, 2018.
The Woodburn School District conveyed a welcome, and welcoming, efficiency during a gathering of roughly 60 people Thursday, Sept. 27, as it ceremonially opened Success High School.

District administrators, board members, teachers, students and the building's designer were among those in attendance at the school's grand opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony, which doubled as an open house for the district's new Welcome Center next door.

The school's modern design features a sunny interior with a central nexus surrounded by varied classrooms, inviting environs that principal Jennifer Dixon said has been luring students to school an hour or two early every day this year.

"Every day we walk into this beautiful space," Dixon said. "We are aware of it aesthetically – it's beautiful – and it also (illustrates) a community that says its students are meaningful."

The bright, open-area design was touted by the district as potentially serviceable for community activities beyond its daily school usage. It also stands as one of the most energy efficient buildings in town.

A combination of the building's green technology and the vast array of adjacent solar panels aims to minimize, or even negate, energy usage.

"Success is the first school to enroll in our Net-Zero program," said Debbie Menashe, a staff liaison with Energy Trust of Oregon. "I think it's amazing how they've taken advantage of all that public land...it's a lot of land to devote (to energy), and it helps both schools."

Woodburn School District Superintendent Chuck Ransom said when the energy generated by the panels exceeds what Success uses, the excess is directed to Woodburn High School facilities.

The new school is one of several projects facilitated by a $65 million bond district voters approved in May 2015. A Nov. 8, 2017 groundbreaking ceremony kicked off construction, which was completed in time for the 2018-19 school year.

But it was not without challenges.

"It wasn't an easy piece of property to develop," Ransom said of the construction-challenging shape of the lot. "But as you can see, it was well worth it."

Ransom said conceptual ideas for developing the land date back to the 1970s, but its tricky dimensions limited the scope and range of those ideas. Project Manager Mark Stoller, an associate principal with Opsis Architecture, along with project architect Liz Manser and designer Alec Holser were in attendance. The designer described the project as an act of shoehorning a triangular peg into a tight triangular slot, sweating details down to the exact inches at every corner.

PHIL HAWKINS - Success High School is one of several projects funded by the $65 million bond district voters approved in May, 2015.
Holser pointed to the non-uniform sizes of the supporting beams as an example, parlaying them and the facility they support into an analogy for life paths; differing and unpredictable but all coming together toward a central meaning.

The school serves students in grades 10-12 who participate in the district's alternative education program. District officials said the solar array not only provides the building's energy needs, it also provides educational opportunities for students.

The district also stressed that Success students complete the same high school graduation requirements as any other Oregon high school and earn a standard high school diploma. Using state benchmarks, teachers design lessons and projects that allow students to demonstrate their skill in a competency-based classroom.

Much of that design planning unfolds in the concomitantly celebrated Welcome Center. Stephan Price, an instructional services coordinator with the district, greeted visitors at the center and emphasized its use in language proficiency testing and in coordinating title programs.

"Before school, after school, during the summer and sometimes on holidays; (much of) what doesn't take place during school hours takes place here," Price said.

The 2015 bond serves to provide additional space for students, major repairs and maintenance to schools, improvements to security/technology systems, and accessibility. Projects are scheduled on a five-year timeline through 2020, while updates and information are available online athttp://www.woodburnsd.org/bond-updates/.

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